Military commanders tasked with executing the Trump White House’s border security operation announced on Wednesday the active duty units slated to head down to the U.S.-Mexico border.
The announcement, by U.S. Northern Command, detailing the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps units tasked to Operation Faithful Patriot will reportedly be the first tranche of American service members heading to the border. Command officials anticipate sending nearly 5,200 active duty soldiers, sailors, Airmen and Marines to U.S. border states, to serve as logistics and support units to the already 2,000 National Guard units already stationed there.
Those Guard units are assisting U.S. Customs and Border Protection with surveillance and administrative tasks, though they are not engaged in actual patrolling or law enforcement.
“This request for assistance will enhance [Customs and Border Patrol] ability to impede or deny illegal crossings and maintain situational awareness as it contributes to CBP’s overall border security mission,” command officials said in a statement, identifying the units set for deployment.
The largest number of U.S. military bases contributing to the border security mission are based in California, with six Navy and Marine Corps installations contributing troops to the operation. Texas and North Carolina-based units are sending the largest number of military units to the border, with each state sending nine active duty Army units. All nine units from North Carolina are being pulled from Fort Bragg.
“The number of troops deployed will change each day as military forces flow into the operating area, but the initial estimate is that the DOD will have more than 7,000 troops” both active duty and Guard units supporting Department of Homeland Security officials in border cities in California, Arizona and Texas, Northern Command officials said Wednesday.
The 7,000 troop number dwarfs initial Pentagon estimates, which had identified a 800-troop requirement for the border security mission, with those forces focusing on logistics and engineering operations, as well as medical and aviation support.
Northern Command’s announcement Wednesday comes hours after Mr. Trump said as many as 10,000 to 15,000 U.S. troops could end up being sent to the border, to prevent a growing caravan of thousands of Mexican, Central and South American migrants seeking refuge in the United States. Mr. Trump’s comments came as he departed the White House for a six-day, eight-state campaign trip to bolster support for GOP candidates in the upcoming midterm elections.
Administration critics claim the White House’s border security mission, coupled with Mr. Trump’s own inflammatory rhetoric about the migrant caravan —referring to the caravan as an “invasion” — is an effort to gin up voter turnout among Mr. Trump’s base ahead of the midterms.
Defense Secretary James Mattis rebuffed claims the border security mission was a political stunt designed to enliven Mr. Trump’s political supporters ahead of the midterm vote. “We do not do stunts in this department,” Mr. Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon, during a joint briefing with South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo.
“We are there in support of the Secretary of Homeland Security, who needs additional military assistance,” Mr. Mattis said, adding that “this is a different aspect of it, but that’s what we are doing.”