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WASHINGTON — Secretary of Defense James Mattis will travel to Texas on Wednesday to visit troops currently deployed in support of the Southwest border mission.
Mattis' trip comes amid a significant active-duty troop presence along the U.S. border with Mexico to deter a caravan of migrants seeking asylum.
The Department of Defense estimates that more than 7,000 troops will be positioned in California, Arizona and Texas in support of the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection. In which case, the border mission, will have a larger U.S. military footprint than the combined efforts in Iraq and Syria.
What's more, President Donald Trump said he was prepared to deploy as many as 15,000 service members to the border, a move that would be on par with the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan, which remains America's longest war.
"I'll visit the border tomorrow," Mattis told reporters Tuesday before meeting his Qatari counterpart at the Pentagon. "We'll update you on costs [associated with border mission] as they become known," he added.
Last week, CNBC learned that the price tag for the troop deployment is shaping up to have a cost of $220 million, according to two U.S. defense officials who were not authorized to speak publicly.
In mid-October, a caravan of at least 3,500 Central American migrants seeking asylum left Honduras for the United States border. The caravan is currently in southern Mexico.
Trump made the caravan of Central American migrants one of his prime targets ahead of last week's midterm election. The president has referred to the caravan as an "invasion" while claiming that Democrats want open borders, which Democrats deny.
The movement of thousands of active-duty troops to the border has been criticized as a political stunt designed to back Trump's campaign promise of securing U.S. ports of entry.
Mattis downplayed that criticism last month saying that Pentagon is providing "practical support based on the request from the commissioner of customs and border police."
"We don't do stunts in this department," he added at the time.