COLORADO SPRINGS – President Donald Trump calls the movement of thousands of migrants from Honduras and Guatemala, through Mexico, an “invasion”, a “national security threat.”
Critics call the move to send thousands of active duty U.S. military troops, including soldiers from Fort Carson to the border to assist the U.S. Border Patrol, a “political stunt”, and ” fear mongering”.
They claim it was only done as a move to drum up support for the President and Republican candidates in the run-up to the midterm elections.
So, to get some perspective on exactly what’s happening, I sat down with retired U.S. Air Force, four star General and former commander of NORAD in Colorado Springs, General Gene Renuart.
I asked him directly, “Do you believe that what we are seeing in terms of this migrant movement is a national security threat?”
He told me the security of our borders is always a threat but went on to say that it’s important to note that they do not have law enforcement authority and are not in a position, for example, to make arrests.
Our troops, along with assistance from Northern Command on Peterson Air Force Base, are assisting in shoring up the border with logistics, communication and medical care if needed. USNORTHCOM, in particular, keeps an eye on the entire border from our satellite installations, essentially providing a wider view of the border for the U.S. Border Patrol as they anticipate and wait for the migrants to reach the U.S.-Mexico border. This is nothing really new for Northcomm, it’s basically the mission of these highly trained men and women, every day.
Keep in mind, the initial order from the White House and the Pentagon, was for more than 5,000 active-duty troops to deploy to the border, with the possibility to expand that number to upwards of 15,000, according to President Trump. That’s essentially the equivalent of our current troop strength in Afghanistan.
So I asked General Renuart, “really?”, is this such an imminent national threat that it demands such a large military response?
The General told me that while it’s a little larger than what we have seen in the past, and remember, previous Presidents have initiated similar orders, not quite this size, but the General said it does take a large number of people to help extend the range of the Border Patrol, and to generally assist law enforcement agencies that might come in contact with these immigrants seeking asylum.
Another point of contention is the ability of our troops to use force against those people attempting to cross the border, and whether our troops are armed and ready to fire on them if needed. That question arose after President Trump, early on in the deployment phase, said that rocks should be treated as rifles, although he backed away from that position a day or so later.
Bottom line, I asked the General, “Do people need to understand that we’re not standing at the border, rifles cocked, and ready to go?”.
He told me no, there are very clear rules of engagement, that law enforcement has a very different role and different authority, but what is called the U.S. Title 10 U.S. military deployment guidelines have very specific and clear guidelines on engagement, essentially limiting any kind of live fire activity. This is, by and large, just a support mission, and the number of soldiers actually on the border the Pentagon reports, could change every day, depending on the mission and threat.
Right now, troops are positioned in Texas, Arizona and California.