The Pentagon is pushing back on reports that active-duty troops are being pulled out of the Washington, D.C., area amid widespread protests over the death of George Floyd.
According to a spokesman for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, “all Title 10 active-duty forces remain in the National Capital Region.” The comment refers to the 1,600 active-duty military police from Fort Bragg, N.C., and Fort Drum, N.Y., and a battalion from the 82nd Airborne, also out of Fort Bragg, who have been staged outside D.C. at Andrews Air Force Base and Fort Belvoir.
The comment from the Pentagon comes amid numerous reports that the 82nd Airborne would be leaving the area after two days of peaceful demonstrations in Washington, D.C.
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It was previously reported that about 200 soldiers with the 82nd Airborne’s immediate response force would be the first to leave on Wednesday. It was also reported that the remainder of the active-duty troops, who have all been kept at military bases outside the city in northern Virginia and Maryland, would be sent home in the coming days.
The confusion over the troops’ presence in the region comes as Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters Wednesday that current conditions do not warrant using military forces as law enforcement in containing the protests. Trump has in recent days talked about using the military to quell protests in U.S. cities that might turn violent.
About 1,300 active-duty troops were brought in to the Capitol region earlier this week amid at-times violent protests, in the aftermath of the death of Minnesota man George Floyd, who died in police custody after an officer pressed his knee to Floyd’s neck for several minutes in moments captured on cellphone video.
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The active-duty unit that is last to remain on alert is the Army’s 3rd Infantry Regiment, which is normally most visible as the service members who stand at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The troops, known as the Old Guard, are based close to D.C. at Fort Myer, Va., and have been on 30-minute-alert status. So, they will continue to be prepared to respond to any emergency in the region within a half hour for as long as needed, if necessary.
Pentagon leaders have consistently said there continues to be no intent to use the active-duty forces in any law enforcement capacity. They would be used to assist the National Guard or other forces.
Only two states have so far sent National Guard troops to D.C. About 300 are from Indiana and 1,000 from Tennessee. Other states turned down requests for forces.
Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.