Having been stationed in Washington, D.C., for more than four months following the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, the last remaining National Guard troops officially ended their term on Sunday, the Army reserve component announced in a news release.
"The National Guard's U.S. Capitol security mission to support the U.S. Capitol Police ends May 23," the release stated as the final 2,200 troops exited the nation's capital.
"They've hit that magic date, and they're going home," added retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honore on CBS's "Face the Nation" on Sunday.
Honore, who oversaw a security review in the wake of the riot, noted that a smaller contingent of troops may continue to be stationed near the Capitol as part of a "quick reaction force," based on recommendations he made to Congress. But the daily sight of thousands of camouflaged military troops stationed near Capitol entry points is over, the Washington Examiner reported.
The continued presence of National Guard troops in the city had been criticized by many Republicans who saw their monthslong deployment in D.C. as a strain on the component's capabilities across the country as well as an unnecessary political operation — and an expensive one at that. In February, Pentagon officials estimated that deploying thousands of troops to the Capitol just through mid-March would cost about $500 million.
Democrats, on the other hand, claimed the troops were necessary to secure the Capitol amid alleged security threats from right-wing actors upset over the results of the election.
At its peak, about 26,000 National Guard troops from every U.S. state and territory were deployed to Washington to bolster security after a largely pro-Trump mob breached the Capitol, forcing the Congress to temporarily suspend certification of the 2020 election and vacate the building.
The shocking incident, which both indirectly and directly contributed to the deaths of five individuals and injuries to dozens more, has been widely characterized by politicians and media figures as an attempted insurrection.
The end of the Guard's mission at the Capitol comes as Congress debates future plans to fortify the Capitol and consider launching a broad "9/11-style" commission to review the events that led to the Jan. 6 riot.
Last Thursday, House Democrats approved a $1.9 billion fortification plan in a mostly party-line vote and, on Friday, approved — with 35 Republican votes — the formation of a Jan. 6 commission. Both measures face an uphill battle in the more balanced Senate.