Biden Pick for Pentagon Policy Chief Opposed Sending Troops to Southern Border

‘Trump’s claims of a border crisis are bogus,’ said Colin Kahl

Colin Kahl
Colin Kahl / Getty Images
April 13, 2021

President Joe Biden’s nominee for Pentagon policy chief is a vocal opponent of sending U.S. military personnel to address the southern border crisis, a position that could pit him against Democratic senators from border states during his confirmation vote.

Colin Kahl called the Trump administration’s decision in 2018 to deploy troops to the southern border a "dangerous precedent" and a "stunt," and called on then-secretary of defense James Mattis to resign rather than carry out the order. The troops, who were sent to support Border Patrol with monitoring and intelligence operations, have remained at the border under the Biden administration.

On social media, Kahl repeatedly claimed that security problems at the border in 2018 and 2019 were "a fake crisis," "made up," and "bogus." He also mocked "the phony terrorism threat Team Trump likes to talk about on the southern border."

Kahl’s comments put him at odds with Arizona Democratic senator Kyrsten Sinema, who urged the Biden administration to pour more federal resources into the growing security crisis. Border Patrol officials have been struggling to stem the massive tide of migrants, which has spiked to the highest number in two decades under the Biden administration.

"Sending US troops to head off a few thousand impoverished migrants fleeing violence (& still nearly 1K miles from the US border) is a stunt. But not a cheap one," Kahl tweeted in 2018, as a caravan of 4,000 migrants was descending on the southern border. "It’ll cost millions & tie down troops & resources that could be used to address real threats."

Kahl argued the deployment set a "dangerous precedent" and that Mattis should step down rather than carry it out.

"If Mattis doesn’t believe the caravan of a few thousand people seeking asylum is a threat that warrants sending 5,000 troops to the border, he should say so & resign. His participation in this stunt sets a dangerous precedent," wrote Kahl.

Sinema was a proponent of the Trump administration’s decision to deploy troops to the border in 2018. "I’ve long supported having additional support on the border because our men and women who are keeping our border safe and secure do need help and support to do that," Sinema told KTAR News in October 2018.

The office of Sinema did not return a request for comment.

Former acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Tom Homan, who is now a fellow at the Immigration Reform Law Institute, said Kahl’s views were troubling considering the fact that he would be in charge of policy at the Department of Defense.

"[Kahl] was against building the wall, he was against sending troops in order to stem the flow," said Homan. "The border crisis creates a national security crisis."

Troops are expected to remain at the border until at least September 2021, although the Department of Homeland Security "anticipates needing at least the current amount of [Department of Defense] support for the next three to five years, possibly more," according to a February report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

Kahl also mocked Trump for holding an emergency border security meeting on Christmas Eve in 2018, calling the issue "made up."

"Trump is reportedly spending Christmas Eve hosting a meeting on the border security crisis and tracking Santa Clause on military radar. One of those issues is made up...and the other is Santa," quipped Kahl on Twitter on Dec. 24, 2018.

In January 2019, Kahl claimed that "actual trends & facts show that Trump’s claims of a border crisis are bogus. Illegal immigration is lower than it was a few decades ago; most drugs pass through points of entry, not the gaps a wall would fill; & immigrants aren’t causing a crime wave."

In another 2019 tweet, Kahl complained that Trump was ignoring the "real crisis" of climate change to address the "fake crisis at the border."

"As climate change, a real crisis, increasingly fuels more intense hurricanes and forest fires, Trump considers diverting storm and fire aid to fund a wall to address a fake crisis at the border," wrote Kahl.

He also dismissed concerns about terrorism at the southern border.

"Remember, unlike the phony terrorism threat Team Trump likes to talk about on the southern border, most suspected terrorists attempt to enter our country via airports. That is why T.S.A. was stood up after 9/11," wrote Kahl in January 2019.

Neither Kahl nor the White House returned requests for comment.