U.S. News

White House, Texas at odds over military drills decried by far right

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - A decision from Texas Governor Greg Abbott to deploy the Texas State Guard to monitor a U.S. military training exercise some conspiracy theorists see as a prelude for federal occupation was met with puzzlement by the White House on Wednesday.

“I have no idea what he’s thinking,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told a news conference. The eight-week training exercise known as “Jade Helm 15” is a multi-state exercise with members of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command.

“The thing that I can say without having a lot of detailed knowledge about the particular exercise is that in no way will the constitutional rights or civil liberties of any American citizen be infringed upon while this exercise is being conducted,” he said.

The exercise has served as a focal point among many in the far right who see the Obama administration as trying to force its will, strip citizens of their arms and impose federal control over states.

On Tuesday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, directed the Texas State Guard to monitor the exercise to ensure the safety of the state’s citizens.

“During the training operation, it is important that Texans know their safety, constitutional rights, private property rights and civil liberties will not be infringed,” Abbott said.

His office did not immediately respond to a request to reply to the comment from the White House. The state has one of the largest populations of U.S. troops in the country.

A post on the website claims that in more than 15 Texas cities special forces troops will try to blend in undetected among civilian populations to prepare for the imposition of martial law.

Earnest said he understands that individuals participating in the exercise will not be traveling incognito and will be wearing arm bands.

The U.S. Army Special Operations Command said in a March news release the operation will take place in states including Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado that have terrain similar to areas where Special Forces train overseas.

It will be mostly conducted in remote areas to help develop techniques and tactics for Special Operations warfare overseas, it said.

“This exercise is routine training to maintain a high level of readiness for Army Special Operations Forces since they must be ready to support potential missions anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice,” it said.

Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton in Washington; Editing by Eric Walsh