Defense Secretary James Mattis reiterated criticism on Wednesday that the deployment of more than 5,200 troops on the US-Mexico border before the midterm elections was a political stunt by the Trump administration.
"We're not doing stunts in this department," Mattis told reporters, according to a Pentagon Pool report.
Mattis said the military support of the Department of Homeland Security, which controls customs and border patrol, "is one practical support at the request of the Commissioner of Customs and Border Police. "
" We do this after storms, we do so in support of the Department of Homeland Security. This is another aspect, but we are, "Mattis said after a meeting with the South Korean Defense Minister at the Pentagon.
President Trump was ordered last week to move the Pentagon forward in response to a shrinking caravan of several thousand Central Americans.
The president has increasingly portrayed the group as a threat to national security over the past month and tweeted on Wednesday that the caravan contains "some very bad thugs and gang members."
The Caravan is still several weeks away from the border, but with the midterm elections on Tuesday and the House's control, Trump has reinforced his rhetoric about the threat of illegal immigration to the United States last month.
Mattis approved on Friday an application for DHS support for the deployment of troops.
The Pentagon then announced on Monday that more than 5,200 active troops would be sent to the border in Texas, Arizona and California as part of Operation Faithful Patriot.
A day later, the North American commander of the US Air Force General Terrence O & # 39; Shaughnessy, who oversees the efforts, said the number is expected to rise.
The Pentagon has not stated how many troops it will ultimately send, nor has it made a cost estimate for the operation.
As of Wednesday the Pentagon had determined Reuters reported that 7,000 troops could be stationed at the border in active deployment.