By Jon Dougherty
Following an incident involving a pair of lightly armed U.S. soldiers and a squad of more heavily-armed Mexican troops in Texas earlier this month, POTUS Donald Trump announced Wednesday that in the future, American soldiers will also carry additional arms.
In addition, the president opined that perhaps the Mexican troops were not really interested in securing their country’s border as they were assisting a drug cartel.
“Mexicoâ€™s Soldiers recently pulled guns on our National Guard Soldiers, probably as a diversionary tactic for drug smugglers on the Border. Better not happen again! We are now sending ARMED SOLDIERS to the Border. Mexico is not doing nearly enough in apprehending & returning!” the commander-in-chief tweeted.
Mexico’s Soldiers recently pulled guns on our National Guard Soldiers, probably as a diversionary tactic for drug smugglers on the Border. Better not happen again! We are now sending ARMED SOLDIERS to the Border. Mexico is not doing nearly enough in apprehending & returning!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 24, 2019
It is certainly plausible that Mexican soldiers would be assisting cartels, we don’t yet know. But, as we reported Tuesday, the incident led the Pentagon to reexamine the rules of engagement for American soldiers deployed along the U.S., very likely per the president’s instructions.
As weÂ reportedÂ 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 month on American soil.
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.
On Wednesday, Trump accused Mexican authorities not just of ignoring the rising smuggling problem, but of actively facilitating “coyotes and cartels” conducting illegal border-jumping operations.
Meanwhile, Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador was “conciliatory,”Â reports Bloomberg, and promised, in response to President Trump’s concern, that the incident will be fully investigated.
“We are going to review the case, take into account what he is pointing out and assure him that we will always have a responsible attitude and respect for the government and people of the United States,” Lopez Obrador said during a press conference on Wednesday.
It’s not likely that the Mexican government will do any more than the bare minimum to step up security of its own border. Because the cartels’ influence is so pervasive, they literally control wide swaths of the country.
As for the president’s threat to up-arm U.S. troops, we concluded:
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,Â would not respond by ordering additional U.S. troops to the border with orders to â€˜protect and defendâ€™ the country.
And give them the means to do so.
Editor’s note: An earlier story on this incident claimed that the two soldiers briefly captured by Mexican troops were ‘regular Army.’ The president says they were National Guard soldiers and we are inclined to believe him since he issued the orders. Our source reports were not clear on whether the troops detained were Guard or Active Duty, so we went with the latter. We issuing this clarification based on what we now know.Â
- Follow Jon Dougherty on Twitter at @JonDougherty10