The Pentagon is dispatching 5,200 active military troops to ‘harden’ the southern border and comply with President Donald Trump’s order to deter an immigrant caravan the president called an ‘invasion.’
Eight hundred troops were already en route Monday – a force the Defense Department is dramatically increasing by adding helicopter companies and engineers who are bringing ‘heavy equipment.’
In total DOD is sending 5,200 troops to ‘harden’ the border, the Pentagon said at a briefing Monday.
Members of the Arizona National Guard listen to instructions on April 9, 2018, at the Papago Park Military Reservation in Phoenix. The Pentagon is now sending 5,200 active duty troops to assist 2,000 guard and thousands of border patrol agents already on the U.S.-Mexico border
‘We’ll reinforce along priority points of entry so as to enhance [Border Patrol]’s ability to harden and secure the border,” said Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy Monday.
The forces are ‘just the start’ of the operation,’ he said.
The 800 troops en route are in addition to the more than 2,000 members of the National Guard already providing assistance at the border now. Officials say the troops will provide “mission enhancing capabilities” and will be armed.
‘We are bringing three helicopter companies in. They are enhanced with optics and censors that will allow them to operate at night and provide assistance to bring our [border patrol] personnel exactly where they need to be regardless of the conditions,’ he said.
The Pentagon says the added forces will be able to ‘spot, identify groups and rapidly deploy’ personnel as need.
‘The helicopters will ensure the agents can arrive in the most austere locations and fast-rope down and conduct and work the law enforcement activities,’ said Gen. O’Shaughnessy.
Troops will come from Fort Bragg, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Fort Stewart, Fort Campbell, Fort Riley and Fort Knox, Fox News reported.
The armed troops won’t take part in law enforcement activities in keeping with the Posse Comitatus Act, which prohibits it.
The dramatic dispatch of U.S. forces to the border comes just days before the off-year elections, with Democratic critics arguing Trump is using the perceived threat of the caravan to motivate his political base.
According to the Pentagon forces will first build up in southern Texas and Arizona, then California.
Priority will go to ‘harden’ points of entry.
The engineering battalions have expertise in ‘building temporary vehicle barriers, fencing and are bringing in heavy equipment,’ according to the Pentagon.
President Donald Trump issued yet another dire warning about the ‘invasion’ posed by the migrant caravan making its way through Mexico, as it is revealed that the Pentagon is upping its troop levels far above the initial 800 announced.
‘Many Gang Members and some very bad people are mixed into the Caravan heading to our Southern Border,’ Trump wrote as it was revealed the military was dispatching 5,000 troops to the border
The military will deploy 5,000 U.S. troops to the southern border, the Wall Street Journal reported, complying with the president’s demand that military forces be put in place to stop the caravan of Central American migrants.
‘Many Gang Members and some very bad people are mixed into the Caravan heading to our Southern Border,’ Trump wrote on twitter, moving away from last week’s claim that the caravan contained ‘Middle Easterners.’
Trump’s earlier claim drew skepticism, and he was forced days later to back down. ‘There’s no proof of anything. There’s no proof of anything. But there could very well be,’ Trump said.
Trump spoke directly to the mostly Honduran members of the caravan in the tweet, saying: ‘Please go back, you will not be admitted into the United States unless you go through the legal process. This is an invasion of our Country and our Military is waiting for you!’
This map shows the progress of the migrants as of Sunday, when a new caravan also departed from San Salvador
A caravan of thousands of migrants from Central America makes its way to San Pedro Tapanatepec on Saturday
Mexican police briefly tried to block the road and convince the migrants to apply for asylum in Mexico on Saturday
Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Mattis said on Sunday that military equipment is already moving to the southern US border. Pictured above are mounted border patrol agents at a newly constructed section of border wall in California on Friday
Aerial view of Honduran migrants heading in a caravan to the US, as they leave Arriaga on their way to San Pedro Tapanatepec, in southern Mexico on Saturday. The caravan now numbers about 4,000
American military equipment has already begun arriving at the southern border ahead of an imminent troop deployment to block the migrant caravan, while in Mexico tensions have broken out with migrants attacking a local man who was distributing food.
Defense Secretary James Mattis said on Sunday military has already begun delivering jersey barriers to the southern border in conjunction with plans to deploy active duty troops.
According to the Journal, the 5,000 troops will join the 2,000 National Guard members already dispatched.
Among those ordered to the border will be military police, engineers, and Marines.
The latest plans would have the Defense Department order 1,800 troops to Texas, 1,700 to Arizona, and 1,500 to California.
The report noted that the contingent would exceed the U.S. forces currently in Syria and Iraq, and equal half of the U.S. deployment in Afghanistan.
The new forces are expected to provide logistical assistance such as air support and equipment, including vehicles and tents.
The influx of troops comes as the caravan is shrinking, although another is being formed.
The caravan, which has had as many as 7,200 migrants, has dwindled to roughly 4,000. It took a day of rest in Tapanatepec on Sunday but vowed to press on to the U.S. border. The border is still at least 900 miles away, a daunting obstacle to migrants, many traveling with their families on foot.