WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is remaining mum about the details surrounding how two U.S. soldiers were held at gunpoint and disarmed by Mexican soldiers illegally on U.S. soil on April 13.
A dozen days after that cross-border incursion, military officials continue to not answer the basic questions of what happened on that date, what has happened since and why it happened in the first place.
Despite the incident occurring on U.S. soil, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has yet to call his Mexican counterparts to discuss that trigger-finger incursion as well as the now year-long presence of U.S. forces on the border between the two nations, officials told TMN.
Pentagon press officers directed reporters to press officers in U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM), which has responsibility for the North American continent. Those press officers respond to media queries by referring reporters to the Mexican government, Customs and Border Protection and legal language authorizing U.S. troops on the U.S-Mexico border.
Spokespersons for Shanahan say they also are trying to obtain the facts.
“On April 13, 2019, at approximately 2 p.m. CDT, five to six Mexican military personnel questioned two U.S. Army soldiers who were conducting border support operations in an unmarked Customs and Border Protection vehicle near the southwest border in the vicinity of Clint, Texas,” a statement from NORTHCOM to TMN said Thursday.
“An inquiry by CBP (Customs and Border Protection) and the Department of Defense revealed that the Mexican military members mistakenly believed the U.S. Army soldiers were south of the border with Mexico. 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,” the statement said.
“After a brief discussion between the soldiers from the two nations, the Mexican military members departed the area. The U.S. soldiers immediately contacted CBP, who responded quickly. Throughout the incident, the U.S. soldiers followed all established procedures and protocols. We continue to review and adapt our training, techniques and procedures to changing circumstances in a very dynamic border environment,” the statement said.
According to reports, the Mexicans approached the two Army soldiers in a unmarked pick-up truck and exited the vehicle brandishing rifles pointed at the Americans. After entering Texas, the Mexicans either disarmed one U.S. soldier or that soldier surrendered his sidearm to “de-escalate” the situation, using the word Pentagon officials initially offered to describe what occurred.
There are roughly 5,000 military troops at the U.S.-Mexico border, split between active-duty forces and National Guard troops. National Guard troops first arrived at the border one year ago.
Among the questions not answered was what happened to the weapon of the second soldier; how the U.S. troops knew they were still in the U.S.; what explanations the Mexicans provided as their reason for their action; how many of the Mexicans entered Texas and how far did they go into the state; if U.S. troops have received training in advance for this type of situation, and why U.S. active troops were so close to the border when they are to be in rear-guard support positions.
“We continually review and adapt our processes, training and procedures as we support US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in the southwest border security mission,” the NORTHCOM statement said. “Force protection is always a priority for us, and we ensure our force protection capabilities and capacities are appropriate for the safety and security of our military personnel and our CBP partners. For force protection reasons, we will not discuss our force protection procedures or capabilities.”