Trump says US border troops could hit 15,000

The number of military troops deployed to the US-Mexico border could reach 15,000, Donald Trump says.

The figure is double the 7,000 the Pentagon said it currently plans to send to support the Customs and Border Protection agents.

Officials said that number could reach a maximum of about 8,000 under present plans.

The troop numbers have been changing at a dizzying pace, with Mr Trump drawing a hard line on immigration in the lead-up to the midterm elections on Tuesday.

Just last week officials were indicating that about 800 to 1,000 might be sent.

Planes are loaded with trucks ahead of deployment to the border
Image: Planes are loaded with trucks ahead of deployment to the border

On Monday, officials announced that about 5,200 were being deployed.

The next day, the Air Force general running the operation said more than the initially announced total were going, and he pointedly rejected a news report that it could reach 14,000, saying that was "not consistent with what's actually being planned".

1:11 Video: A migrant trying to make it to the US through Mexico tells Sky News he has witnessed rape and executions

General Terrence O'Shaughnessy, the commander of US Northern Command, told reporters the number would exceed the initial contingent of 5,200, but he offered no estimate of the eventual total.

Just 24 hours later, Mr Trump thrust new uncertainty into the picture, catching the Pentagon by surprise.

Trucks are loaded onto planes
Image: Trucks are loaded on to planes ahead of deployment to the border

With his eyes squarely on 6 November's contests, Mr Trump has rushed a series of immigration declarations, promises and actions as he tries to mobilise supporters to retain Republican control of Congress.

His Republican campaign in 2016 concentrated on border fears, and that is his focus in the final week of the midterm fight.

"As far as the caravan is concerned, our military is out," Mr Trump said.

"We have about 5,800. We'll go up to anywhere between 10,000 and 15,000 military personnel on top of Border Patrol, ICE and everybody else at the border."

Honduran migrants taking part in a caravan heading to the US
Image: Migrants have been heading to the US in caravans

The president told ABC News: "We have to have a wall of people."

His comments were the latest twist in a story that has pushed the Pentagon unhappily into the political space, prompting questions about whether Defence Secretary Jim Mattis was allowing the military to be leveraged as a political stunt.

"We don't do stunts," Mr Mattis said.

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