Amid a standoff with the Pentagon over the role of the military in responding to protests after the death of George Floyd, President Trump has agreed to begin sending home members of 82nd Airborne Division from the nation’s capital, according to a report.
The active-duty soldiers had been on alert outside the city while National Guard troops were deployed around the White House and in other parts of Washington, DC, The New York Times reported.
But they became a flashpoint after the president declared during a Rose Garden speech to the nation that he would “deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem” if state and local officials didn’t act.
On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper tried to send home some of the 1,600 active-duty troops, only to have the commander-in-chief order him to stand down during a contentious meeting, according to The Times.
Trump finally relented on Thursday, an administration official who asked not to be named told the news outlet, but it did not appear that the president spoke with Esper directly.
The defense chief ordered 700 of the troops to return to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, by evening and a Pentagon official said the remaining 900 as well as a military police unit from Fort Drum, New York, could begin pulling back as early as Friday, The Times reported.
Meanwhile, more than 2,000 National Guard troops remain in Washington, a number expected to climb to 4,500.
Esper said Wednesday he opposes the use of the military to quell violence across the US, a stance that runs counter to Trump’s vow to invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807 in states with uncontrolled looting.
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