WASHINGTON — Pentagon officials made clear on Wednesday that the deployment of active-duty troops to the U.S.-Mexico border is going to continue far in the future.
Now they are seeking to formalize that deployment.
The Pentagon is looking for “a much more predictable comprehensive plan for the next couple years” on the military deployment to the U.S.-Mexico border, Gen. Joseph Dunford, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told members of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
“What we want to do is get into a more predictable mode (with Department of Homeland Security) so we can lay out the next couple of years….based on numbers of migrants and …capacity,’ he said.
Dunford and Patrick Shanahan, the acting defense secretary, said there has been no degradation in troop readiness and “in some cases it has enhanced our readiness…as troops get to perform some functions.”
Shanahan said the Defense Department can now build 256 miles of border barrier wall, with 63 miles to come online in next six months.
He also said that there are 4,364 troops on the U.S.-Mexico border today, a mix of active and National Guard forces.
“We really needed a more formed plan,” Shanahan said, in regards to the border mission. He promised there “will never be a blurring of lines (of duty) with law enforcement, never have, never will.”
Neither he nor David Norquist, the acting deputy defense secretary, could say when the final decision will be made on what military construction projects will be raided to help pay for the border wall project.
From the shortest ongoing deployment to the longest, Dunford and Shanahan said conditions in Afghanistan remain on the positive side.
Shanahan pooh-poohed reports that show the Taliban holds more parts of Afghanistan than any time since they ruled the country before the U.S. invasion in 2001. Reports say they hold roughly half of the territory.
“I wouldn’t change territories with them” Shanahan, regarding the half of Afghanistan held by the Taliban. He said the Kabul government and its NATO supporting force hold the “critical populations areas.”
Dunford said the conditions for a complete withdrawal of the U.S. forces, which numbers about 15,500, are not present. He did say the conditions to continue a decrease in the size of the U.S force exist.
“Once you stop paying the premium, you no longer have insurance,” Dunford said, regarding a pullout of all U.S. troops.
“I am realistic about the (peace) negotiations,” Dunford said. “This is the first time in many years we have had the opportunity to have a peaceful solution.”