'Jaw-dropping': Mattis resignation puts U.S. in 'uncharted territory'

Defense Secretary James Mattis to Step Down in February

Defense Secretary James Mattis to Step Down in February

A political novice, Trump took office almost two years ago gushing about the retired military leaders who had agreed to serve in his administration: retired four-star Marine Corps Gen. Jim Mattis as defense secretary, and John Kelly, another retired four-star Marine general, heading the Department of Homeland Security.

Mattis, who embraced America's traditional alliances, said he was quitting after falling out with President Donald Trump over foreign policy, including surprise decisions this week to pull troops from Syria and start planning a drawdown in Afghanistan.

Thursday's resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis laid bare these sharpening divisions.

While Trump justified the Syria move by saying the US has scored "historic victories" over Islamic State, the decision has drawn bipartisan criticism from lawmakers who warned it leaves Syria's future in the hands of Russian Federation and Iran, the primary backers of President Bashar Assad.

Trump added in a tweet.

CNN reported on Thursday evening that after President Trump's Syria tweet, senior United States defence officials were also bracing themselves for another surprise announcement: the withdrawal of United States troops from Afghanistan.

Trump slammed Mattis as "sort of a Democrat" and hinted he may leave the administration. In it, Mattis shows that he is thinking about something much bigger than Syria policy. His decision, the newspaper of record of what once passed for American liberalism, argued, had "sowed new uncertainty about America's commitment to the Middle East, its willingness to be a global leader and Mr. Trump's role as commander in chief".

Trump rebuked Graham in response on Twitter.

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When Mattis interviewed with Trump for the job in 2016, he split with the president-elect on a host of issues, including on North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the use of torture. That formulation always disturbed me, since it made American citizens "children" who must be protected by three military leaders (Mattis's appointment violated the norm that the defense secretary be a civilian) and a rapacious Exxon CEO.

McConnell's statement is a rare public expression of disagreement with Trump. But he told Trump in a letter Thursday that he was leaving because "you have a right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours". Most recently, Trump tapped Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley to replace Gen. Joseph Dunford as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, months ahead of schedule and despite Mattis's stated preference for Air Force Chief of Staff David Goldfein.

Mattis hailed the coalition to defeat the Islamic State as well as Nato, the almost 70-year-old alliance between North America and Europe whose cost-effectiveness has been questioned by the businessman turned president.

Stephen Miller, a senior White House adviser, said Trump was entitled to a Pentagon chief with whom he could agree.

The resignation also surprised Kabul, where the retired Marine had been seen as a guarantor of US engagement.

However cynical Trump's motives, there is no question that there is huge popular hostility to the never-ending United States wars in the Middle East.

"Deputy Secretary Shanahan remains exclusively focused on implementing the National Defense Strategy", Buccino said. McCormick runs in the same social circles as Trump's daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, and he is the fiancé of Dina Powell, Trump's former deputy national security advisor for strategy.

Trump's announcement of the Syrian troop withdrawal provoked an extraordinary backlash from the leadership of both his own Republican Party and the Democrats, as well as from the major media and state-connected Washington think tanks.

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