President Donald Trump called the active-duty troops deployed to the southwest border “proud” to be doing their jobs, and he said not to worry about them missing Thanksgiving.
“These are tough people,” Trump told reporters on Tuesday. “They know what they’re doing and they’re great, and they’ve done a great job. You’re so worried about the Thanksgiving holiday for them. They are so proud to be representing our country on the border. They are proud to be defending our nation.”
The president did not indicate how long the active-duty mission in support of civil authorities would last. He repeated his past claims — without providing evidence — that the human caravans of Central American asylum seekers headed toward the United States included hundreds of dangerous criminals.
“Our soldiers are doing an incredible job,” Trump continued. “If you look at the walls that they’re building and if you look at all of the barricades that they’re putting up, they’ve done a great job.”
It is unclear how much longer the nearly 6,000 active-duty troops on the U.S./Mexico border will remain there. Army Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, who is in charge of the mission, told Politico on Monday that he has not seen any indications that troops will remain deployed to the border beyond Dec. 15.
However, U.S. Army North issued a statement on Tuesday that appeared to backpedal Buchanan’s comments.
“We may shift some forces to other areas of the border to engineering support missions in California and other areas," the statement said. “No specific timeline for redeployment has been determined.”
The Pentagon has estimated that keeping roughly 5,900 active-duty troops deployed to the border through Dec. 15 will cost $72 million, Army Col. Rob Manning, a Defense Department spokesman, said on Tuesday.
Also Tuesday, Trump ignored a reporter who asked if retired Adm. William McRaven – who planned the successful Osama bin Laden raid – is a hero, and asked when he will visit deployed U.S. troops.
“I can’t hear your question,” Trump told the reporter. “I can’t hear you. Your voice is not – I don’t know Adm. McRaven.”
The president recently derided McRaven as a “Hillary Clinton fan” and he is facing increasing calls to visit U.S. service members downrange.