By Jon Dougherty
As we anticipated would happen, the Pentagon — no doubt at the behest of the White House — is reevaluating the rules of engagement for U.S. troops deployed along the southwest border after two soldiers were surrounded and disarmed by a small, armed Mexican force north of the international boundary in Texas earlier this month.
As we reported earlier this week, in an incident that had troubling international implications, especially given the tension among Americans regarding illegal immigration, officials with U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) said on Saturday that a squad of armed Mexican troops detained U.S. soldiers for a brief period earlier this monthâ€¦inÂ Texas.
NORTHCOMÂ toldÂ CNNÂ the incident happened in the afternoon on April 13; the U.S. personnel were conducting routine surveillance, according to the command.
â€œOn April 13, 2019, at approximately 2 p.m. CDT, five to six Mexican military personnel questioned two U.S. Army soldiers who were conducting border support operations in an unmarked [Customs and Border Protection] vehicle near the southwest border in the vicinity of Clint, Texas,â€ NORTHCOM said in a statement.
During the incident, the Mexican troops â€” all armed â€” ordered the two U.S. soldiers, a sergeant and a private, out of an unmarked vehicle. NORTHCOM said the Mexican soldiers pointed their weapons at the U.S. troops and detained them for a period of time.
Mind you, the demarcation line and border sectors are well-known to both U.S. and Mexican military personnel.
While this encounter ended without incident, the fallout from an actual confrontation with an exchange of gunfire and casualties is incalculable. Diplomacy aside, itâ€™s hard to imagine that POTUS Donald Trump, who has no doubt been briefed about this incident, would not respond by ordering additional U.S. troops to the border with orders to â€˜protect and defendâ€™ the country.
Sounds like we were right.
According to theÂ Washington Examiner:
A senior defense official says the Pentagon is reviewing how U.S. soldiers responded during an incident this month in which Mexican troops detained and disarmed Americans on Texas soil.
TheÂ standoff between two U.S. soldiers and as many as six Mexican military officialsÂ on April 13 is believed to be the first of its kind, according to the senior defense official from Northern Command, or NORTHCOM. “This is the first incident that we’re aware of that the two militaries came together,” the official told theÂ Washington Examiner.
The two soldiers appear to be active duty Army, not National Guard — at least according to reporting — from Washington state. Reports said they were sitting in an unmarked Customs and Border Protection vehicle when they were moved on by the Mexican troops.
The Mexican soldiers were armed with standard-issue assault rifles; they confiscated one soldier’s M9 Beretta sidearm for a time.
Now, the Pentagon is investigating the incident, which the official said “will help us modify any instructions that we’re giving the troops” about how to deal with such a situation, theÂ Washington ExaminerÂ reported, adding:
Troops deployed to the U.S.-Mexico boundary go through joint readiness staging, or training on how to handle dangerous situations in the area. The official said he could not recall anything similar to last Saturday’s encounter having taken place during a previous active-duty troop deployment.
No official protocol exists for how to navigate a run-in with a foreign military, but the senior official said the soldiers were trained to “de-escalate” the situation. By surrendering at least one gun, they followed existing protocol, though it left them unarmed.
No doubt the Trump administration has already protested this encounter through diplomatic channels with the Mexican government. And no doubt that protocols going forward will change, especially if POTUS Trump continues to order U.S. troops to the border in support of federal agents.
American troops are likely to be more heavily armed in the future and, perhaps, be assigned to sectors in numbers greater than two. Either way, the situation along the border is tense; Mexican troops, who regularly patrol the border, are not used to seeing American troops opposite them — making it more likely, not less, that things could spiral out of control if another armed incident takes place.
- Follow Jon Dougherty on Twitter at @JonDougherty10