More troops are headed to the border. Here's what they'll do.

Matt Saintsing
October 29, 2018 - 4:40 pm

Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Nathan Akridge

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5,200 U.S. troops are set to arrive at the border this week as a migrant caravan from Central America inches towards the southwest border with Mexico, U.S. defense officials announced Monday.

Chief of U.S. Northern Command, Air Force Gen. Terrence O'Shaughnessy, said the deployments are occuring as part of Operation Faithful Patriot. "We know border security is national security," he said. 

800 additional troops arrived today who came from two Kentucky-based Army posts: Fort Campbell and Fort Knox. 5,200 military personnel is more than twice the 2,000 American troops currently serving in Syria to counter the Islamic State. 

The deployments, which could last until mid-December, include three engingeer battalions, members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, aviation, medical and logistics units said O'Shaughnessy. 

“We’ll be able to spot and identify groups and rapidly deploy (Customs and Border Protection) personnel where they are needed,” through aviation assets, he said.

It is unclear why the Pentagon is opting to send active-duty troops instead of National Guardsmen.

The Pentagon alluded to the specific mission capabilities to support the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) along the southwest border, in a statement last Friday.

Engineering support—such as temporary barriers, barricades and fencing—aviation assets to transport CBP personnel, medical staff, temporary housing, and personal protective equipment are listed the assets heading to the southwest border.

The additional troops also plan on bringing concertina wire to set up between ports of entry. 

In an interview with Fox News on Monday, President Trump said the military would build "tent cities for the migrants seeking asylum. “We’re going to put tents up all over the place,” he told Fox News' Laura Ingraham. “They’re going to be very nice and they’re going to wait and if they don’t get asylum, they get out.”

Trump pushed back that the deployment was to draw attention for the upcoming midterm election on Nov. 6. "This has nothing to do with elections,” he said. 

The decision to send active duty troops garnered criticisms. 

“Sending active military forces to our southern border is not only a huge waste of taxpayer money, but an unnecessary course of action that will further terrorize and militarize our border communities,” said Shaw Drake of the American Civil Liberties Union’s border rights center at El Paso, Texas.

By law, military personnel are barred from enforcing immigration policies. 

Currently, around 2,100 National Guard troops are spread across the border. President Donald Trump has cautioned about the caravan, which has ballooned to as many as 7,000 people, according to the United Nations refugee agency, as it continues its slow march through Mexico. But according to the Associated Press, the number of migrants dwindled to about 4,000 as a second caravan picks up steam. 

Another caravan trekked to the United States earlier this year with only 200 people making it into California. 

The current caravan was roughly 1,000 miles away from the U.S. border, as of Sunday.

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