The midterm elections are over, along with President Trump’s rafter-shaking rallies warning that an approaching migrant caravan of Central Americans amounts to a foreign “Invasion” that warrants deploying up to 15,000 active-duty military troops to the border states of Texas, Arizona and California.
American troops who rushed to the brown, dry scrub along the southwest border are still going through the motions of an elaborate mission that appeared to be set into action by a commander in chief determined to get his supporters to the polls, and a Pentagon leadership unable to convince him of its perils.
Defense Department budget officials fret that if the number of troops sent to the border does reach 15,000, the price tag could hit $200 million, with no specific budget allocation from which to draw.
Capt. Lauren Blanton, who oversees logistics for the base, is caught between monitoring the influx of equipment and troops and ensuring that her facility is livable, with enough amenities so the troops living there can call home.
Putting troops at the border to protect against what Mr. Trump deemed a threat, in his rallying cry for the midterms, has put Mr. Mattis’s views about politicizing the military on a collision course with the president.
Among the requests, issued at the White House’s behest, were that troops deployed to the border be armed, prepared for direct contact with the migrants and ready to operate under rules for the use of force to be set by the Defense Department.
Defense Department officials said the tasks by the troops at the border were the best compromise that Mr. Mattis could reach.
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