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Esper Does About-face on Plan to Return 200 Troops to Home Bases from DC After WH Visit
By Staff, Agencies
No active-duty troops that were recently deployed to Washington DC area to manage heated protests will be leaving just yet, the Pentagon said – an apparent reversal of an earlier plan to send some 200 home.
US war secretary Mark Esper’s U-turn followed a White House meeting and “internal Pentagon discussions” on Wednesday, the Associated Press reported, citing Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, who said the decision is meant to ensure law enforcement in the capital have support in case of renewed unrest. It is not clear if the Esper spoke with US President Donald Trump.
McCarthy added that around 200 soldiers with the 82nd Airborne would remain in the capital region for another 24 hours.
Up to 1,600 active-duty troops were deployed to the capital region earlier this week and remain on standby after intense anti-police brutality demonstrations roiled DC, at times escalating to riots, looting and vandalism. Hundreds of National Guard soldiers were also used to patrol the city amid the unrest.
Earlier on Wednesday, Esper said the military should only be used to quell unrest at home as a “last resort,” explicitly opposing Trump's plan to invoke the Insurrection Act, which would expand presidential authorities to deploy soldiers to police American streets. The statement broke with the president’s more aggressive stance toward the rioters, though it is unclear if Trump had any role in Esper’s decision to leave active-duty troops near the DC region.
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