With some 5,800 US troops having made their show of deploying to the Mexican border, and seemingly having little else to do, on Monday Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan reported that he was expecting to start drawing down troop levels as soon as this week. He added that the operation was only scheduled to last until December 15.
By Tuesday, however, the Pentagon was furiously backpedaling away from that, insisting that there is no actual timeline for ending the US deployment, nor indeed any plans for a drawdown, despite what the general in charge of the operation said the day before.
Officials did, however, confirm that what Lt. Gen. Buchanan said the day before about transferring some of the troops to California might still happen. The White House may have come up with something for them to do as well.
The Trump Administration is reportedly considering giving US troops the authority to conduct medical screenings of migrants if there was some reason that border personnel couldn’t. This would be a big shift, as the Pentagon had previously said troops would have no direct contact with the migrants.
Officials say if this plan is approved, it could keep the troops on the border much longer. This might be a key factor, as if the troops had just left before the migrants even arrived, it would’ve added to the sense that Trump’s decision to send troops to the border was largely trying to score political points before the mid-term vote.
That’s also likely to increase the costs. The Pentagon says the border operation is to cost $210 million so far, but that’s with only $72 million on the Army’s deployment, which was based on the deadline that they’re already disavowing.