- The Washington Times - Monday, December 3, 2018

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis has yet to approve a Department of Homeland Security request to extend the deployments of U.S. troops on the southern border into next year, pending a military review of the request.

The request, sent over to the Pentagon late last week, seeks to keep roughly 4,000 active-duty troops on the U.S.-Mexico border until the end of January, to support border security operations by DHS and the Customs and Border Patrol agency. The roughly 5,700 active-duty U.S. troops ordered to the southern border in October were initially set to withdraw by mid-December.

“No, I have not signed off on it,” Mr. Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon, saying members of the Defense Department policy directorate continue to review the extension request. The Pentagon chief spoke before bilateral talks Monday with Indian Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in Washington.

Mr. Mattis said he expects the request, and the recommendations from the Joint Staff and Pentagon officials “to be on my desk within the next 24 hours,” he said.

The largest U.S. troop contingent along the southern border has been deployed to Texas, with nearly 2,800 American soldiers there. Some 1,500 are deployed along the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona, with another 1,300 along the border in California, according to troop counts provided by U.S. Northern Command. Mr. Trump ordered the troop deployment to defend American territory from a migrant caravan of thousands of Central American migrants vowing to seek refuge in the United States.

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