President Trump said Wednesday that he would deploy as many as 15,000 military personnel along the US border with Mexico in response to caravans of Central American migrants making their way northward, doubling the figure Pentagon officials had earlier announced would be operating there.

Iran Press/ America: The Washington Post quoted Donald Trump as saying: “We’ll go up to anywhere between 10 and 15,000 military personnel on top of Border Control, ICE and everybody else at the border. Nobody’s coming in. We’re not allowing people to come in.”

Trump made the remark to reporters before departing Washington for a campaign rally in Florida.

Trump’s comments came a day after the general in charge of the border deployment said 5,239 active-duty troops would be heading to the border with more potentially to follow, in addition to the 2,092 members of the National Guard already there.

It wasn’t clear whether Trump’s 15,000 figure included the National Guard deployment.

If the deployment reaches 15,000 troops, it would be roughly equivalent to the size of the U.S. military’s presence in Afghanistan and three times the size of the presence in Iraq. Already, the deployment is believed to be the largest of its kind in more than a century. 

“The number of troops deployed will change each day as military forces flow into the operating area, but the initial estimate is that [the Defense Department] will have more than 7,000 troops supporting DHS across California, Arizona and Texas,” U.S. Northern Command said in a statement issued shortly after Trump spoke.

The Pentagon has identified about 7,000 troops that could be deployed to the border with Mexico if needed, with the first support troop deployment already underway.

Critics say the president’s decision to announce the deployments just days before the election is a political stunt designed to fire up a base concerned about immigration.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, speaking to reporters at the Pentagon, rejected the criticism on Tuesday, saying the military was deploying to support the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection. 

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“The support that we provide to the Secretary for Homeland Security is practical support based on the request from the commissioner of customs and border police, so we don't do stunts in this department,” Mattis said.

On 8 August, nine Guatemalan children separated from their parents at the U.S. border under Trump’s immigration policy were reunited with their deported families on Tuesday.

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