WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is reviewing why U.S. troops on the border with Mexico surrendered their weapons when confronted by about a half-dozen Mexican soldiers and why the Mexicans were even at the location.
The incident, which occurred on April 13 but was not confirmed until Monday, raises new questions about the role of active forces on the U.S.-Mexico border and the dearth of coordination with Mexican authorities.
It also underscores the lack of communication between top military officials of the neighboring nations. Pentagon officials confirmed to TMN Tuesday that even after more than three months in office, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has yet to call either of Mexico’s two defense ministers.
“Still trying to get it scheduled,” one official told TMN Tuesday.
Pentagon officials could not explain why the U.S. troops who were detained were in the location of the incident. They were on the south side of a barrier in Clint, Texas, reportedly on a mobile surveillance mission on behalf of Customs and Border Protection.
However, such front-line duties would mean active troops would be in position to be the first official U.S. entities that meet illegal migrants — something Pentagon official have repeatedly insisted is not to occur.
According to Maj. Mark Lazane, a spokesperson for U.S. Northern Command, the two U.S. soldiers were in an unmarked car when an unmarked truck approached them, spewing five or six Mexican troops. The Mexicans insisted the U.S. soldiers has crossed the border into Mexico, he said.
“However, the U.S. soldiers were appropriately in U.S. territory. Though they were south of the border fence, U.S. soldiers remained in U.S. territory, north of the actual border,” Lazane said in a statement.
The Mexican troops aimed rifles at the two U.S. soldiers, and removed the service pistol from one soldier and threw it into the soldiers’ unmarked U.S. Border Patrol vehicle, one Pentagon official told TMN.
The official used the word of the day — “de-escalate” — to describe the behavior of the U.S. troops during the incident.
It was unclear initially to the U.S. soldiers exactly who was confronting them, the official said. Drug smugglers often dress in Mexican military uniforms or have Mexican soldiers on the payroll, thus making identification of friend or foe murky, the Pentagon official said.