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Trump: Border Troops Could Hit 15K, Same as Afghanistan

President ratchets up number, though Pentagon doesn't confirm
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 31, 2018 6:17 PM CDT
Airman 1st Class Trevor Pearce helps guide a military vehicle into the cargo compartment of a C-17 Globemaster III at Fort Knox, Kentucky. The aircrews provided strategic airlift to Headquarters Company,...   (Airman 1st Class Zoe M. Wockenfuss/U.S. Air Force via AP)
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(Newser) – President Trump said Wednesday the number of military troops deployed to the US-Mexican border could reach 15,000—roughly double the number the Pentagon said it currently plans for a mission whose dimensions are shifting daily, per the AP. The Pentagon said "more than 7,000" troops were being sent to the Southwest border to support the Customs and Border Protection agents, and officials said that number could reach a maximum of about 8,000 under present plans. Trump, however, has thrust uncertainty into the picture with a series of immigration declarations less than a week before the midterms. "As far as the caravan is concerned, our military is out," Trump said. "We have about 5,800. We'll go up to anywhere between 10,000 and 15,000 military personnel on top of Border Patrol, ICE, and everybody else at the border."

His comment was the latest twist in a story that has pushed the Pentagon unhappily into the political space, prompting questions about whether Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was allowing the military to be leveraged as a political stunt. "We don't do stunts," Mattis said Wednesday. Trump has railed against illegal immigration, including several caravans of migrants from Central America slowly moving toward the US border. The caravan of an estimated 4,000 people is still about 1,000 miles from the border. A deployment of 15,000 would bring the military commitment on the border to roughly the same level as in Afghanistan. (Trump also hinted at his rationale for the idea of ending birthright citizenship by executive order.)

(Read more US-Mexico border stories.)

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