‘It remains premature to speculate total numbers or specific forces to be selected to accomplish the requested mission…’
(AFP) The Pentagon could send thousands more troops to the US-Mexico border, a US official said Monday, as President Donald Trump warned a caravan of Central American migrants that the military was waiting.
Such a large deployment would represent a sharp increase from initial estimates last week, when US officials said about 800 active-duty troops would be sent to provide assistance — mainly in the form of logistical support — to border guards working along the frontier.
But on Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported that 5,000 troops would be deploying to the southern border.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a US official backed the 5,000 figure — but cautioned that planning is still under way and said no final decisions have been made on numbers.
In a statement, the Pentagon said: “It remains premature to speculate total numbers or specific forces to be selected to accomplish the requested missions.”
The Department of Homeland Security, the vast US agency in charge of border security, was scheduled to hold a news conference at 4:00 pm (2000 GMT).
Trump in recent weeks has repeatedly said more troops are needed to tighten security at the border, and he has made political capital of the caravan ahead of important mid-term congressional elections that could see the Democrats regain a degree of power.
Last week he expressed frustration that the story, which had been attracting growing cable news headlines, had been pushed off front pages as multiple top figures in the Democratic party were targeted by a series of mail bombs.
‘Please go back’
The US president took to Twitter on Monday to again blast the migrant caravan, which is comprised mainly of Hondurans and is making its way slowly northward, mostly on foot, through Mexico.
“Many Gang Members and some very bad people are mixed into the Caravan heading to our Southern Border,” Trump wrote, doubling down on the hard-line anti-immigrant rhetoric that helped fuel his 2016 election victory.
“Please go back, you will not be admitted into the United States unless you go through the legal process. This is an invasion of our Country and our Military is waiting for you!”
A group of around 300 migrants left San Salvador, the El Salvador capital, on foot Sunday heading for the border with Guatemala in the hope of eventually reaching the United States.
The group, made up mostly of men, has been inspired by the much larger Honduran caravan already in Mexico — and ignored warnings from El Salvador’s government not to put their lives in danger.
In April, Trump ordered up to 4,000 National Guardsmen to head to the border as a different migrant caravan wound its way north. About 2,100 have deployed.
The United Nations estimates that 7,000 people have joined the Honduran caravan since it set out from San Pedro Sula, Honduras, on October 13.