In an unusual move ahead of the United States midterm election, President Donald Trump sent troops to the U.S.-Mexican border to protect the region from the caravan of migrants walking north for asylum. Now at least some soldiers are coming home in time for Thanksgiving. The drawdown happened right as the convoy began arriving.
According to a Politico report, approximately 5,800 troops were sent to ostensibly protect the border from the group of people walking towards the U.S. in the weeks before the recent trip to the polls. Democrats and Republicans both criticized the move as political theater to persuade Trump’s base to go to the polls en masse to ensure a victory for conservative candidates.
Now, several soldiers will return home because they’re just not needed at the border. According to Army Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, those coming back include units of engineering and logistics that helped place barriers such as concertina wire to shore up protection and make it difficult to cross. By Christmas, all the troops deployed should come home.
“Our end date right now is December 15, and I’ve got no indications from anybody that we’ll go beyond that,” said Buchanan on Monday.
In the past, deployments like this included mostly part-time National Guard units. However, Trump insisted that officials include full-time soldiers at the border, which meant that active-duty military served there for the past few weeks.
New @wesleysmorgan SCOOP: The Pentagon is set to begin a drawdown of its 5,800 troops from the Southwest border as early as this week, the Army commander overseeing the mission told POLITICO. https://t.co/YIhmCie3zk via @politico— Carrie Budoff Brown (@cbudoffbrown) November 19, 2018
This morning’s partial closure of a busy point of entry between Mexico and California remained brief, and Buchanan does not expect that other ports will be closed on a regular basis.
“If CBP has reliable information that one of their ports is about to get rushed with a mob, or something like that that could put their agents at risk, they could ask us to completely close the port,” Buchanan said.
“You understand the importance of commerce at these ports. Nobody in CBP wants to close a port unless they’re actually driven to do so.”
Before the drawdown, the Pentagon rejected a request from the Department of Homeland Security that the troops provide armed backup for border patrol agents. However, Buchanan said that task is for law enforcement.
In a recent editorial for the New York Times, retired Army colonels Gordon Adams, Lawrence B. Wilkerson, and Isaiah Wilson III called Trump’s deployment of troops to the border a “political misuse” of the U.S. military. They accused Trump of using the armed forces as “toy soldiers” to manipulate the outcome of the midterm elections.