As Secretary of Defense James Mattis met with Republic of Korea Minister of National Defense Jeong Kyeong-doo at the Pentagon on Wednesday, he rebuffed recent criticism of the deployment of U.S. military members to the southern border in response to caravans making their way to the U.S. via Central America.
“The support that we provide to the secretary for homeland security is practical support based on the request from the commissioner of Customs and Border Police,” Mattis said, according to the pool report. “So we don’t do stunts in this department.”
When asked if the movement of troops is about deterrence, Mattis made it clear they are sending the active-duty soldiers at the request of the Department of Homeland Security.
“We are there in support of the Secretary of Homeland Security, who needs additional military assistance,” Mattis said. “We do this following storms, we do this in support of the Department of Homeland Security. This is a different aspect of it, but that’s what we are doing.”
During a joint press conference on Monday, officials from the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Defense laid out the mission for the new deployment of troops and what is being sent with them as part of “Operation Faithful Patriot”:
- 5,200 soldiers
- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
- Three combat engineer battalions
- Three medium-lift helicopter companies
- Three AC-130s
- One C-17
- Military police units
- Medical units
While they will mainly be in a supporting role, Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, commander of U.S. Northern Command, said the soldiers will be deploying with their weapons.
On Wednesday afternoon, President Donald Trump further said he could increase the number of service members deployed to the U.S.-Mexico border:
In Q&A before leaving WH, Pres called the migrant caravans "very dangerous." He said there's 5,800 troops on the border now and the number could be increased to between 10 and 15 thousand. "We're not allowing people to come in," he said of the caravans. pic.twitter.com/KOWqnsZXCe
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) October 31, 2018
In April, when National Guardsmen were first sent to the southern border as part of “Operation Guardian Support,” Dana White, the chief Pentagon spokesperson, said Mattis agreed with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen that “border security is national security.”