Troops’ mission on the border is unclear
The Pentagon has been landing transport planes in Texas for almost a week, part of a deployment of as many as 15,000 active-duty troops to the border on a mission that critics say has less to do with national security than its impact on midterm elections.
Operation Faithful Patriot erupted as a partisan flashpoint after President Donald Trump announced his intention to send soldiers and equipment to the border to prevent several thousand impoverished Central Americans from entering the country.
In tweets and at rallies, Trump has said without evidence that a caravan of men, women and children making its way on foot through Mexico contained “some very bad thugs and gang members,” unidentified Middle Easterners and “some very tough fighters,” and has suggested they would try to storm the border by force.
Several former military and intelligence leaders scoffed at the purported threat.
The troops being deployed have no military objective, said Michael Hayden, a retired Air Force general who was CIA director under President George W. Bush.
“This represents security theater and is not based upon any concrete request made by anyone,” said Hayden, who also led the National Security Agency and once commanded the Air Intelligence Agency here.
A U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent speaks with a Cuban asylumseeker as newly arrived troops watch at Hidalgo’s international bridge with Mexico.
Army and Customs and Border Protection personnel prepare to install protective wire at the international bridge in Hidalgo. At one point, Trump suggested the GIs would be allowed to shoot anyone who threw rocks at them, but he later walked back that comment.