US Defence Chief James Mattis Quits Over Differences With Trump On Allies

| December 21 , 2018 , 10:48 IST

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis resigned Thursday after a clash with President Donald Trump over the treatment of allies and the US approach to “malign actors and strategic competitors” on the world stage.

The United States has about 14,000 troops deployed to Afghanistan as part of a NATO mission.

President Trump took to his Twitter account to share the news, "During Jim’s tenure, tremendous progress has been made, especially with respect to the purchase of new fighting equipment," Trump tweeted. "General Mattis was a great help to me in getting allies and other countries to pay their share of military obligations. A new Secretary of Defense will be named shortly. I greatly thank Jim for his service!"

Following the announcement, the Pentagon also released a copy of Mattis' signed resignation letter.

Mattis wrote that he has "been privileged to serve" in his role as defense secretary and acknowledged the department's record during his time there.

In his letter to Trump, Mattis acknowledged that a strong nation relies on a "comprehensive" network of alliances, and must be "resolute and unambiguous" in approaching countries with strategic differences, citing China and Russia.

"Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position," Mattis wrote.

His departure date will be Feb. 28, 2019, which he noted should give the president and the department enough time to his replacement to be nominated and confirmed. He also pledged his "full effort to a smooth transition."

According to media reports, officials said Mr. Mattis went to the White House on Thursday afternoon with his resignation letter already written, but nonetheless made a last attempt at persuading Mr. Trump to reverse his decision about Syria, which the president announced on Wednesday over the objections of his senior advisers.

Mr. Mattis, a retired four-star Marine general, was rebuffed. Returning to the Pentagon, he asked aides to print out 50 copies of his resignation letter and distribute them around the building.

Mattis commanded Marines in Afghanistan and in the 2003 invasion of Iraq before becoming the head of United States Central Command, overseeing all American troops in the Middle East.

He favored working with allies and often spoke of how difficult it is to conduct American policy without the benefit of friends and alliances.

Mattis' celebrated military career spanned four decades. Prior to joining Trump's Cabinet, the four-star general was the head of U.S. Central Command, which directs military operations and oversaw the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.