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Pentagon chief: National Guard has not been asked to stay in DC past March

Pentagon chief: National Guard has not been asked to stay in DC past March
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Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinOvernight Defense: New Senate Armed Services chairman talks Pentagon policy nominee, Afghanistan, more | Biden reads report on Khashoggi killing | Austin stresses vaccine safety in new video Pentagon chief underscores safety of COVID-19 vaccine amid some service members' refusal Biden to speak with Saudi king 'soon' as pressure builds for Khashoggi report MORE said Friday there has been no request for the National Guard to stay at the U.S. Capitol beyond mid-March.

“Right now, in terms of our expected stay, it is March 12,” Austin told reporters at the Pentagon. “We don’t have an additional requirement or requests from another federal agency to provide them support.”

Asked if the Pentagon was tracking any credible threats that would require the guardsmen to stay longer, Austin would not comment, saying, “it’s probably not appropriate for me to talk about intelligence matters from this podium.”

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He added that the Pentagon will continue to assess threats “and decisions will be based upon what we believe is credible or not.”

“My plan is to not keep [troops] there one day longer than is necessary, but they know and understand that if our lawmakers need help they need protection, they stand ready to provide that protection,” he said.

Thousands of National Guardsmen have been deployed to Washington, D.C., since the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of former President TrumpDonald TrumpSenators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Democratic fury with GOP explodes in House Georgia secretary of state withholds support for 'reactionary' GOP voting bills MORE.

At their peak, roughly 26,000 guardsmen were in the city ahead of and during President BidenJoe BidenKlain on Manchin's objection to Neera Tanden: He 'doesn't answer to us at the White House' Senators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Overnight Defense: New Senate Armed Services chairman talks Pentagon policy nominee, Afghanistan, more | Biden reads report on Khashoggi killing | Austin stresses vaccine safety in new video MORE’s inauguration before dropping to 7,000 by the start of February. Capitol Police requested that 4,900 guardsmen remain until March 12.

The National Guardsmen are expected to remain in the Beltway until next month due to concerns that followers of the far-right QAnon conspiracy theory may travel to the city over hopes that Trump will be returned to office March 4.

Robert Salesses, assistant secretary of Defense for homeland defense and global security, said Wednesday he is “not aware of a threat that is out there” that would keep troops in the city longer, but he added, “that evolves all the time.”