US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis quits over policy differences with Trump

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Defense Secretary Jim Mattis resigned on Thursday after a clash with President Donald Trump over the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria, saying in a parting letter that the president should choose a person who is more in tune with his world view.

Trump announced Mattis resignation in a tweet on Thursday, and said Jim Mattis, will leave at the end of February.

“General Jim Mattis will be retiring, with distinction, at the end of February, after having served my Administration as Secretary of Defense for the past two years,” Trump tweeted.

Trump further 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.”

“A new Secretary of Defense will be named shortly. I greatly thank Jim for his service!” President Trump added.

According to reports, Mattis went to the White House on Thursday afternoon in a last attempt to convince Trump to keep US troops in Syria. He was rebuffed and told the president that he was resigning as a result. 

In his resignation letter, Mattis told Trump he had “the right to have a Secretary of Defence whose views are better aligned with yours”. He laid out his convictions on the value of U.S. leadership in strategic alliances, including the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the 74-nation coalition to defeat Islamic State. His letter also suggested differences with Trump over the president’s handling of strategic challenges posed by Russia and China.

Mattis met with staff at the Pentagon on Thursday after his meeting with the president to tell them he was stepping down, a defense official familiar with the events said.

Mattis said that the end date for his tenure is February 28, 2019, a date that should allow sufficient time for a successor to be nominated.

Mattis also said in his resignation letter that he believed the US must be resolute in its approach to countries whose strategic interests are increasingly in tension with America’s.

Defending his decision on Thursday to withdraw US troops from Syria, President Trump tweeted that the US did not want to be the “policeman” of the Middle East.