U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Thursday he will step down at the end of February after apparently clashing with President Donald Trump over a U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria and differing views on alliances.
Mattis' departure was considered a possibility, partly because Trump on Wednesday surprised U.S. allies, members of Congress and Pentagon officials by announcing the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria, Kyodo News reports.
In a resignation letter, Mattis, a retired Marine Corps general, said he will "step down" so that Trump, who has stridently pushed his "America First" mantra, can have a Pentagon chief "whose views are better aligned" with his on alliances and other issues.
Announcing that Mattis "will be retiring," Trump said in a Twitter post that the next defense secretary "will be named shortly."
In the letter, Mattis indirectly criticized Trump's treatment of U.S. allies, singling out North Atlantic Treaty Organization members and noting the "strength in their commitment to fighting alongside us following the 9-11 attack on America."
While the U.S. remains the indispensable nation in the free world, we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies," he said.
Mattis also said Washington must be "clear-eyed" about China and Russia, countries he said "want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model -- gaining veto authority over other nations' economic, diplomatic and security decisions -- to promote their own interests at the expense of their neighbors, America and our allies."
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 said.
In the tweet, Trump said, "During Jim's tenure, tremendous progress has been made, especially with respect to the purchase of new fighting equipment."
General Mattis was a great help to me in getting allies and other countries to pay their share of military obligations," he said. "I greatly thank Jim for his service!"
Source: Kazinform News Agency
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