Washington: US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis quit on Thursday as President Donald Trump weathered an escalating backlash at home and abroad over his sudden decision to pull all troops from Syria.
Trump steadfastly defended the withdrawal of the 2,000-strong force from Syria, vowing that the United States would no longer be the “policeman of the Middle East” and insisting that the Islamic State had been defeated.
Mattis, a retired general seen as a moderating force on the often impulsive president, made little attempt to hide his disagreements with Trump.
“Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours,” Mattis said in a letter to Trump, “I believe it is right for me to step down from my position.”
Mattis hailed the coalition to defeat the IS and also defended NATO, the military alliance between North America and Europe whose cost-effectiveness was questioned by the businessman turned president.
“My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and info-rmed by over four decades of immersion in these issues,” Mattis wrote.
The resignation came as The Wall Street Journal reported that Trump was also considering a substantial drawdown in a much larger US operation — Afghanistan.
Mattis will serve until the end of February, giving Trump a short window to name a successor who can be confirmed by the Senate....