Most of the National Guard troops sent to Washington, D.C. before the Biden inauguration are now being called back home by their governors. Their mission is complete and no incidents requiring their service were reported during the inauguration. Some troops will be held over, though, in case they are needed in the coming weeks.
Yesterday it was announced that a drawdown was beginning with the approximately 25,000 National Guardsmen tasked with securing the nation’s capital. Stars and Stripes reports that up to 7,000 Guardsmen may remain in Washington through mid-March. The remaining force will come from volunteers according to Nahaku McFadden, a spokeswoman for the National Guard Bureau. The concern is over a fear of more violence on Capitol Hill.
The plan to extend some troops’ deployments comes at the request of federal law enforcement officials, including the Secret Service, which led planning for inauguration-related security, officials said. The intent to extend deployments beyond the end of January, as initially planned, comes as officials fear the potential for more violence in the wake of the storming of the Capitol by a mob of former President Donald Trump’s supporters. Five people died, including one Capitol police officer, in the melee.
McFadden said troops deployed to Washington would not be required to remain in D.C. Those who volunteer to support the longer operation will have their initial 31-day mobilizations orders modified.
This weekend about 15,000 troops will head home. The extension of some Guardsmen comes among some controversial reports this week. Someone made the decision to order the troops to leave the Capitol building and thought housing them in a parking garage was a good idea. People were rightly outraged over this as it hit social media and because of that viral exposure, the decision was reversed. There is no indication that any other factor caused the decision to be reversed but for the reaction on social media. The move would have gone unnoticed otherwise. Lawmakers and the Biden administration were caught unaware of what was going on. Lawmakers were quick to demand explanations and offer troops from their home states provisions. A National Guard spokesman said in a statement on Friday that now they may stay, “within congressional buildings, including the U.S. Capitol” to take their on-duty breaks.
The Biden administration scrambled to make nice after the story broke. Allegedly, Biden became aware of it when he saw it on the news – shades of Barack Obama’s favorite excuse coming back – “I didn’t know about it until I saw it on the news.” Remember that? It is reported that Biden made a call to Gen. Daniel Hokanson, who is in charge of the National Guard Bureau. Jill Biden made a lame gesture for the photo op of standing with some of the troops yesterday. She brought a basket of cookies from the White House. I guess a chocolate chip cookie in White House packaging makes up for being banished to a parking garage. Look – she placed her hand over her heart, see, she’s sincere. Then she posted a picture on Twitter.
With all my heart — thank you to the National Guard for your continuous commitment to keeping our nation safe. pic.twitter.com/L7VRqWTfyc
— Jill Biden (@FLOTUS) January 23, 2021
Republican governors Chris Sununu of New Hampshire, Ron DeSantis of Florida, Greg Abbott of Texas and Greg Gianforte of Montana were the first to announce that their state troops were coming home.
“They don’t complain but it’s my job to really protect the team and make sure they are not put into those substandard conditions, so we pulled them out,” Sununu said on Fox & Friends on Saturday morning. “If there’s another call, there’s another mission we’re always going to be there, absolutely. But I just needed to make sure we weren’t being part of a broken system.”
DeSantis called the deployment a “half-cocked mission at this point” and said it was time to bring the Guardsmen home.
“These folks are soldiers,” DeSantis said on Fox News on Friday morning. “They’re not Nancy Pelosi’s servants. This comes on the back end of them trying to investigative the backgrounds of our guardsmen. Florida, we did not let them go into their political beliefs. That was totally inappropriate.”
Governor Abbott made the decision on Thursday night as the story went viral and Governor Gianforte did the same on Friday morning. Governor Abbott previously voiced issues with the mission after sending 1,000 Texas Guardsmen to help with enhanced security in Washington. When he learned of additional vetting going on, he took that as an insult to the troops and said he would not send troops again if that continued.
Texas’ Abbott tweeted Thursday night that he had instructed a general to order the state’s National Guard back home, and Montana’s Gianforte did the same Friday morning.
Abbott said the Guard troops had to go through a “political correctness test.”
“These are men and women who should be respected and not denigrated,” Abbott said on Hannity on Friday. “These are men and women who have served in Afghanistan and overseas and yet they are forced to sleep in a parking garage.”
There is also a problem with over 200 Guardsmen now testing positive for COVID-19. Frankly, given their circumstances, I’m surprised the number isn’t higher.
Since Guardsmen arrived at the Capitol in the days following the attack, images have emerged of hundreds of troops inside the Capitol or other sites, sometimes close together and occasionally not wearing masks. On Thursday evening, a number of lawmakers from both parties spoke out in Twitter posts after reports that Guard members were asked to take rest breaks in a parking garage instead of indoor space.
Reports that Guardsmen were working and moving in tight quarters raised concerns Covid-19 protocols can’t be maintained, a defense official said.
Every Guardsman deployed to Washington was screened for Covid-19 before arriving, but not all were tested, unless required under the screening process, defense officials said.
I assume the troops that will remain behind are meant to secure Capitol Hill in case of violence when Nancy Pelosi delivers the papers for Trump’s second impeachment trial to the Senate on Monday. The trial is set to begin in the first week of February. The White House may need to bake a whole lot more of those chocolate chip cookies before this is over.