Fri, Nov 02, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Trump’s 15,000 border troop figure surprises Pentagon

AP, WASHINGTON

US President Donald Trump said the number of military troops deployed to the US-Mexican border could reach 15,000 — about double the number the Pentagon said it plans for a mission, the dimensions of which are shifting daily.

The Pentagon said “more than 7,000” troops were being sent to the southwest border to support US Customs and Border Protection agents.

That number could reach a maximum of about 8,000 under present plans, officials said.

The troop numbers have been changing at a dizzying pace, with Trump drawing a hard line on immigration in the lead-up to the midterm elections.

Just last week officials were indicating that about 800 to 1,000 might be sent. On Monday, officials announced that about 5,200 were being deployed. The next day, the US Air Force general running the operation said more than the initially announced total were going, and he pointedly rejected a news report that it could reach 14,000, saying that was “not consistent with what’s actually being planned.”

The commander of US Northern Command, General Terrence O’Shaughnessy, told reporters the number would exceed the initial contingent of 5,200, but he offered no estimate of the eventual total.

Just 24 hours later, Trump thrust new uncertainty into the picture, catching the Pentagon by surprise.

With his eyes squarely on Tuesday’s contests, Trump has rushed a series of immigration declarations, promises and actions as he tries to mobilize supporters to retain Republican control of the US Congress.

His own Republican campaign in 2016 concentrated on border fears and that is his focus in the final week of the midterm fight.

Trump rejected the idea he was “fearmongering” or using the issue for political purposes.

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