US Army report says only around 20 per cent of migrants in caravan will reach US as Trump predicts ‘invasion’

Caravan members unlikely to arrive for at least two to four weeks and no travellers from Middle East expected, according to unclassified report 

Nick Miroff,Missy Ryan
Saturday 03 November 2018 17:47 GMT
What is the Migrant Caravan heading to the Mexico-US border?

US military planners anticipate that only a small percentage of Central American migrants travelling in the caravan will make it to the US-Mexico border, as more than 7,000 active-duty troops are mobilised to prevent them from entering the country.

However, President Donald Trump has depicted the caravans as a grave danger to national security and said "an invasion" will reach the US border.

According to military planning documents, about 20 per cent of the roughly 7,000 migrants travelling through Mexico are likely to complete the journey. The unclassified report was obtained and published by Newsweek on Thursday.

If the military's assessment is accurate, it would mean the United States is positioning five soldiers on the border for every one caravan member expected to arrive there.

“Based on historic trends, it is assessed that only a small percentage of the migrants will likely reach the border,” the report says.

It was prepared by US Army North, a component of US Northern Command, which oversees the mission dubbed Operation Faithful Patriot.

The assessment also indicates military planners are concerned about the presence of “unregulated armed militia” groups showing up at the border in areas where US troops will operate.

When The Washington Post spoke to military officials, they did not dispute the report's accuracy but declined to address questions about its contents.

Seizing on immigration as his main campaign theme ahead of Tuesday's midterm elections, President Donald Trump claims the caravans are composed of “unknown Middle Easterners”, hardened criminals and “very tough fighters”.

President Trump also insists the number of migrants heading north is much larger than estimates put forward by US and Mexican government officials.

The military assessment does not support any of those claims.

The report, dated 27 October, notes that caravan members are unlikely to arrive for at least two to four weeks.

Among those travelling are “limited #s of Bangladeshi, Haitian and African individuals,” it reads. It makes no mention of Middle Eastern countries.

Homeland Security officials say they have identified 270 individuals in the caravan with “criminal histories, including known gang membership”.

In a statement, the department also said foreign nationals from 20 countries are among the groups, though none of the nations it listed are in the Middle East.

In the military planners' most likely scenario, the caravans will continue to dwindle in size as they move north with “no terrorist infiltration,” potentially causing a “balloon effect” on smuggling activity as traffickers attempt to exploit the diversion created by President Trump's focus on the migrants.

In its “most dangerous” assessment, the caravan would “grow markedly” and become exploited by terrorists and traffickers, leading to increasing “cross border engagements”. The assessment does not assign a numerical probability to those scenarios.

President Trump said that he wants to send as many as 15,000 troops to the border to prepare for the caravans. The deployment appears to be the largest such peacetime mobilisation of active-duty US troops at the border in at least a century.

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High on the list of potential dangers facing US personnel, according to the military's assessment, is the presence of “unregulated militia members self-deploying to the border in alleged support” of US Customs and Border Protection. It estimates that 200 militia members could show up while troops are in the area.

“They operate under the guise of citizen patrols,” the report reads, warning of “incidents of unregulated militias stealing National Guard equipment during deployments”.

The assessment does not go into further detail about those incidents, but Border Patrol officials have also warned landowners in the area about the possibility of gun-carrying militias on their property in the coming weeks.

Protesters and “anarchists” arriving along the border also pose a risk, according to the report.

“Previous protests in support of immigration caravans or enforcement of immigration law have occurred throughout the US,” it says. “Normally peaceful unless extreme right or left groups attend.”

Washington Post

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