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National Guard troops extend stay at Mexico border

Arizona National Guard Soldiers train for Operation Copper Cactus at an undisclosed location in Arizona on Aug. 25, 2010. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill)

The Department of Defense is extending the deployment of 1,200 National Guard troops in Arizona and other states that border Mexico for an additional 90 days.

Lt. Col. Robert Ditchey, a spokesman at the Office of the Secretary of Defense, told the Arizona Republic (http://bit.ly/q5dtl8) that Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced the extension the deployment of Guard troops Thursday at the request of the Department of Homeland Security.

The troops have been stationed along the border since the summer of 2010 to help stem the flow of drugs and illegal immigrants into the United States. They primarily provide support to the Border Patrol and other law enforcement agencies.

The deployment of National Guard troops along the border was scheduled to end on Sept. 30, the end of the federal government’s fiscal year. The troops will now remain until the end of December, Ditchey said.

The troops are intended to provide a bridge while the Department of Homeland Security continues to add more agents, technology and barriers along the border.

Although 1,200 troops are authorized, currently there are about 1,120 troops stationed along the border, including 492 in Arizona, 277 in Texas, 266 in California and 68 in New Mexico, said Rod Korba, a spokesman for the National Guard Bureau in Arlington, Va.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said she was pleased to hear that the National Guard’s border mission will be extended through the end of the year, calling it “an encouraging step.”

“The federal government shouldn’t contemplate pulling these troops until law enforcement officials who operate near the border indicate it has been sufficiently secured,” Brewer said in a statement. “Until sufficient Border Patrol manpower is in place, the National Guard can complement a comprehensive border-security effort. I believe that should include additional airborne and other resources, as well as the completion of a substantial and well-maintained border fence.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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