Days before the midterm elections, President Donald Trump announced the deployment of active duty troops to the southern border to stop caravans of migrants making their way through Mexico.
On Saturday, that original border mission comes to a close, but thousands of U.S. troops will remain for an extended and reduced mission in support of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) slated to last through January 31.
At the height of the deployment, there were 5,900 active duty troops stationed in California, Arizona and Texas. On Thursday, U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) said that figure had dropped to 4,200, but a U.S. official told ABC News that eventually only about 2,500 to 3,000 troops will remain.
The downsizing of the mission comes just days after Trump suggested that the military could be used to build a wall on the southern border. A Pentagon spokesperson said in a statement on Tuesday that there was "no plan to build sections of the wall."
A troop rotation has been established for the extension, allowing those who were deployed over Thanksgiving to make it home for Christmas, the official said.
The Pentagon has estimated that the original deployment through Dec. 15 would cost taxpayers $72 million, but the extended mission is expected to cost less because of the reduced footprint and the fact that infrastructure is already in place and materials like concertina wire have already been purchased and used.