- In the wake of the Capitol siege on January 6, security is being ramped up in the nation’s capital.
- There will be up to 25,000 National Guard troops in Washington, DC, for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration next week.
- The US military footprint in DC for Biden’s inauguration will be greater than the number of troops in Afghanistan and Iraq combined.
- The increased troop presence in DC is a stark reminder of the rising threat of domestic terrorism, and the fact that it outweighs the dangers of foreign extremism to the US.
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The US military will have a larger footprint in the nation’s capital by this weekend than the total number of troops in Afghanistan and Iraq combined.
There will be up to 25,000 National Guard troops in Washington, DC, for President-elect Joe Biden’s January 20 inauguration. Comparatively, as of January 15 there were roughly 2,500 US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq respectively (about 5,000 total).
For context, there are roughly 54,000 US military personnel in Japan – the largest number of American troops in any foreign country.
There are major concerns about security for inauguration following the pro-Trump Capitol siege on January 6, which led to five deaths and sent shockwaves through the nation.
The fact there will be more troops in DC than the two countries that have in many ways been the primary battlegrounds of the US government’s global war on terror is a stark reminder that homegrown extremism poses a greater threat to the US than foreign terrorism.
In the post-9/11 world, the US government has overwhelmingly treated terrorism abroad as the greatest threat to the homeland, but the country is seemingly shifting in a new direction.
In October, the Department of Homeland Security released a report warning that violent white supremacy would remain the “most persistent and lethal threat in the homeland.”
“Foreign terrorist organizations will continue to call for Homeland attacks but probably will remain constrained in their ability to direct such plots over the next year,” the report added.
Law enforcement in the US has increasingly taken this tone in recent years, particularly in the wake of the deadly neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017.
“A majority of the domestic terrorism cases that we’ve investigated are motivated by some version of what you might call white supremacy, but it includes other things as well,” FBI Director Christopher A. Wray said to Congress in July 2019.
Similarly, Wray in September 2020 told Congress that “racially motivated violent extremism,” primarily from white supremacists, accounted for the biggest chunk of domestic terror threats.
And when it comes to jihadism, the threat has also been disproportionately domestic in nature in the years since the 9/11 attacks. As the New America think tank puts it: “Far from being foreign infiltrators, the large majority of jihadist terrorists in the United States have been American citizens or legal residents.”
The events of January 6, which Biden as well as many congressional lawmakers and experts have described as domestic terrorism, could mark an inflection point in terms of how the US approaches extremism.
A mostly white, pro-Trump mob filled with members or sympathizers of far-right extremist groups stormed the US Capitol with apparent intentions of doing harm to lawmakers and even Vice President Mike Pence. It represented a direct assault on American democracy and an unprecedented event in US history.
Congressional lawmakers are now calling for the US to treat domestic terrorism as an existential threat to the country and its political system.
“The post 9/11 era is over. The single greatest national security threat right now is our internal division. The threat of domestic terrorism. The polarization that threatens our democracy. If we don’t reconnect our two Americas, the threats will not have to come from the outside,” Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin, a former CIA analyst and Pentagon official, said via Twitter following the Capitol siege.