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Trump says troops to remain at border 'as long as necessary'

US soldiers stand in formation after a day of work on the border with Mexico near the Otay Mesa crossing in California

President Donald Trump on Saturday defended his controversial deployment of thousands of troops to the US-Mexico border, confirming they would remain in place "as long as necessary."

"We have a tremendous military force on the southern border, we have large numbers of people trying to get into our country," he told reporters at the White House ahead of a visit to California.

"They built great fencing, they built a very powerful fence," he added.

Some 5,900 active-duty troops are now stationed along the border, a contentious deployment in support of civilian forces that Trump ordered ahead of the recent midterm elections.

Opponents have criticized the cost and usefulness of the operation, dismissing it as a political stunt.

An additional 2,100 or so National Guardsmen have been deployed to support operations at the border, bringing the total military presence to about 8,000.