The Slatest

The Border Troops’ Commanding Officer Said Their Mission Was Nearing Completion. Now, the Army is Backtracking

View the frontier between Nueva Laredo, Mexico and Laredo, Texas. Concertina wire can be seen installed all the way up to the US-Mexico border on this busy international bridge on November 17, 2018.
View the frontier between Nueva Laredo, Mexico and Laredo, Texas. Concertina wire can be seen installed all the way up to the US-Mexico border on this busy international bridge on November 17, 2018.
THOMAS WATKINS/Getty Images

Is the military’s wire-and-ditches mission along the US-Mexico border winding down? Depends on who you ask. In an interview with Politico published Monday, the commanding officer for the mission, Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, said that the almost 6,000 troops would be ending their deployment by Dec. 15, as originally planned, and that some troops would start coming home in a few days.

They were, Politico reported, “already unneeded,” because they had put down wire and other barriers near the border. (The military was not and is not tracking or apprehending migrants who try to cross the military illegally.)

The deployment has been criticized from both from inside and outside the administration as a largely pointless stunt designed to keep the Central American migrant caravan moving slowly through Mexico in the news before the midterm elections.

On Tuesday, however, the tone slightly changed. An Army spokesman said “No specific timeline for redeployment has been determined,” in a statement, pointing to the need to maybe redeploy troops from Texas to California, near the border entry points where the caravan has begun to gather in Tijuana.

“We may shift some forces to other areas of the border to engineering support missions in California and other areas. No specific timeline for redeployment has been determined. We will provide more details as they become available,” the statement said, according to Politico.

On Monday, border authorities closed down some lanes at the San Ysidro port of entry in Tijuana, “to position additional port hardening materials as crews secure the border in response to thousand of Central American migrants who have arrived via caravan,” a local NBC affiliate reported.

The new barriers were put in place because “CBP officials received reports of groups of persons from the caravan gathering in the city of Tijuana for a possible attempt or attempts to rush illegally through the port of entry instead of presenting themselves as required to a CBP office,” early Monday. While Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen tweeted that “officials were notified that a large # of caravan migrants were planning to rush the border in an attempt to gain illegal access to the US,” reporters at the crossing Monday saw no indications of any concerted rush or stampede of the border.