According to the Associated Press, a sizable chunk of the National Guard troops still stationed in Washington amid threats of unrest at the Capitol will soon be leaving D.C. and headed back to their home states.
The bad news? An even larger chunk of Guardsmen will be remaining in the district, at least for the time being.
The troops were first sent to Washington following a violent and deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. In addition to prompting a second effort to impeach and remove then-President Donald Trump, the unrest resulted in as many as 26,000 National Guardsmen being deployed to the nation’s capital in the days leading up to Joe Biden’s Jan. 20 Inauguration Ceremony.
While many troops have since returned home, around 4,300 Guard members remained in the district as of Friday, the AP said.
And though hundreds of them will soon be shipping out, some 2,300 Guard members will remain in the district “for about two more months,” the AP reported, after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin approved a request from Capitol Police last week to extend their stay.
According to the AP, states including Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri, Ohio, New Jersey, and Wisconsin have all agreed to take part in the extended mission, though others, including Michigan, have pulled out amid bipartisan criticism of the move. The District of Columbia Guard will also reportedly remain active.
“Inappropriate at best”
But it won’t be without controversy. Among those to express their staunch opposition to the continued occupation of the district is the National Guard Association’s chairman, Maj. Gen. Michael McGuire.
“This enduring requirement of having them around the city, I think it’s completely inappropriate at best, illegal at worst,” McGuire recently told the Washington Examiner.
“Every American citizen should be concerned that an unelected Cabinet secretary can move forces into the city,” he added. “The National Guard specifically is the last line of defense for direct policing action only in the emergent period when it is life, limb, protection of property.”
According to the Examiner, National Guard Bureau Chief Gen. Daniel Hokanson pointed out in a memo sent prior to Austin’s order that there is an “unprecedented demand” for Guard troops elsewhere throughout the country, particularly as states and localities continue moving forward with the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, among other things.
“I am concerned that the continued indefinite nature of this requirement may also impede our ability to man future missions,” Hokanson wrote. “Efforts to date have not secured enough volunteers among supporting states to meet the [Capitol Police] request of 2,280 soldiers, nor Option B of 1,000 soldiers.”
Nonetheless, members of the Guard will now remain in D.C. through at least May 23, according to reports.