Esper orders hundreds of active-duty troops outside DC sent home day after reversal
Defense Secretary Mark Esper is sending hundreds of active duty soldiers who had been on standby in the Washington, D.C., area back to their home base after reversing course on such a decision the day before.
A senior defense official confirmed to The Hill that the Pentagon “made the decision to return members of some of the active duty units in the capital region to their home base.”
The official added that military leaders “are continuously monitoring this dynamic situation,” and that the return of the remainder of the active duty service members will be “conditions-based.”
The troops — reported by numerous outlets as from the 82nd Airborne Division based in Fort Bragg, N.C. — are part of the roughly 1,600 U.S. forces brought to the D.C. area but never used to respond to civil unrest that came with protests over the Minneapolis police killing of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, last week.
This marks the second time in as many days that Esper has ordered the troops home. On Wednesday morning, the Pentagon chief instructed forces to return home but changed his command later that day following a White House meeting, asking them to “to remain on alert” in the region for an additional 24 hours.
The change to diminish troop presence in the capital region comes after Esper made a signifiant break from White House messaging. On Wednesday, he told reporters he did not support invoking the Insurrection Act, an 1807 law that would allow President Trump to deploy active-duty troops around the country to respond to the protests.
Trump on Monday threatened to deploy troops to quell protests if governors did not “dominate” and call in their National Guard. But in an interview recorded on Wednesday he indicated he is unlikely to follow through.
“It depends. I don’t think we’ll have to,” Trump told Sean Spicer, his former press secretary, in an interview on Newsmax.