The U.S. military’s mission to the southern border has officially become one of the Forever Wars.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper has authorized up to 4,000 troops to deploy to the border starting this October until the end of September 2021, Pentagon spokesman Army Lt. Col. Christian Mitchell said Thursday.
CNN’s Ryan Browne first tweeted on Thursday that a total of 5,500 U.S. troops are currently authorized to support civil authorities along the border, so the upcoming deployment will represent a decrease in the number of service members there.
The current number of service members deployed to the U.S./Mexico border was not immediately available.
Most of the troops that will be deployed to the southern border starting in October will come from the National Guard, Mitchell said in a statement. Because the National Guardsmen will be under federal orders while on active duty, they will not perform a law enforcement role.
“The duties to be performed by military personnel include the same categories of support as those currently being carried out along the border, including detection and monitoring, logistics, and transportation support to U.S. Customs and Border Protection,” Mitchell said in a statement.
U.S. troops began deploying to the border with Mexico starting in October 2018 under the pretense of helping the border patrol stop a caravan of Latin American asylum seekers force their way into the United States.
On Nov. 19, 2018, the commander of U.S. Army North told Politico that he did not expect the active-duty troops and National Guardsmen to stay at the border beyond Dec. 15 of that year, yet the mission has since been extended several times.
Separately, the Trump administration has diverted billions of dollars from overseas operations, counter-narcotics efforts, military construction, and new ships and planes to help fund the president’s wall along the southern border.
As of Thursday, the U.S. troops deployed to the border have not yet been required to repel an invasion force from Mexico or Latin America.