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Troop levels on US-Mexico border 'pretty much peaked': Pentagon

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US police agents stand guard near the US-Mexico border fence as seen from Playas de Tijuana, Mexico, on November 15, 2018. (AFP photo)

A senior Pentagon official has said that American troop levels at the US-Mexico border have essentially reached their upper limit.

The US Department of Defense has deployed about 5,900 active-duty troops to the border to repel a large group of immigrants moving through Mexico towards the US.

The troop deployment was ordered by President Donald Trump ahead of the November 6 midterm congressional elections.

In the days before the crucial election, Trump had vowed to send as many as 15,000 troops to the border. But Trump’s critics had said that his moves were only meant to influence the vote.  

We have "pretty much peaked in terms of the number of people that are down there," Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told Pentagon reporters on Thursday.

But then he added that the number "can always be amended."

In addition to the 5,900 active-duty forces, the US National Guard, a reserve military force, currently has 2,100 soldiers on duty at the border and they are authorized to go up to 4,000.

Trump’s critics had insisted that he was using the caravan situation to give Republicans a much-needed boost before the congressional midterm elections by stirring anti-immigration sentiments among voters.

While even the Pentagon had admitted that the deployment was more along the lines of technical support for the US Customs and Border Protection, Trump had tried to convince his base that he was sending the forces to stop potentially dangerous individuals from entering the country.

Some US military veterans have also criticized Trump for putting extra pressure on a military that is strained by years of wars and budget cuts to advance his political agenda.

US Defense Secretary James Mattis had pushed back against the assertion that Trump was playing a campaign trick, saying: "We don't do stunts."

Some experts have also warned of the unknown cost of the deployment on taxpayers, considering that much smaller deployments of National Guard to the border have cost them hundreds of millions of dollars.

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