Trump defence secretary Jim Mattis to retire at end of February

Defense Secretary James Mattis to Step Down in February

Defense Secretary James Mattis to Step Down in February

Secretary Mattis, however, said that he would stay till February 28 to allow sufficient time for a successor to be nominated and confirmed.

Defending his decision on Thursday to withdraw USA troops from Syria, Trump tweeted that the United States does not want to be the "policeman" of the Middle East.

Mattis has overseen a surging budget in line with the president's promise to renew US military primacy, allowing him to employ vast resources as he has sought to finish off terrorism threats in the Middle East and improve America's ability to compete with Russian Federation and China.

Mattis' letter indicated that he disagreed with Trump's isolationist policies, writing that it was his belief the United States needed to maintain strong alliances and show allies respect.

Republican Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, who was previously considered for the Secretary of Defense or Central Intelligence Agency director positions in the past, is also under the White House radar to replace Mattis. "It is imperative that he pick someone for the Pentagon - and frankly, clear out the rest of his national security team - and appoint people he can trust and whose views comport with his own".

The two men apparently dined regularly early in the life of the administration, but we knew things were really rocky when Trump said in October that Mattis was "sort of a Democrat" and that "He may leave".

In a letter to the President, Mattis explains he will be stepping down so President Trump can appoint someone new in the position who more closely alligns with his agenda.

The late-week developments suggest that the president is at long last following his "gut", as he likes to call it, and fulfilling his long-standing desire to draw down USA troops in conflicts that he has reportedly deemed unwinnable (although in the case of Syria he declared "victory" over the Islamic State). Given that there are 40,000 more USA troops in the Middle East, this decision alone doesn't seem like a mortal blow to the worldview Mattis stood for, but presumably, he saw it as a matter of principle. Instead, he was an outspoken critic of Trump throughout his campaign and presidency.

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Mattis, a retired Marine general whose embrace of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and America's traditional alliances often put him at odds with Trump had advised against the Syria withdrawal. Trump announced US Army chief of staff Gen. Mark Milley as his replacement, despite some reported concerns from Mattis.

Mattis' tenure in office matched the past three Pentagon chiefs, all of whom served around two years.

Prior to his 2017 appointment as defense secretary, he listed a modest wood-frame house, built decades ago for workers at the nearby Hanford nuclear site, as his residence.

He rarely gave formal news conferences or interviews.

US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell indicated he was in agreement with Mattis on America's alliances and on Russian Federation, whom he described as a foe. We should all be saddened that Mattis is quitting.

He also pressed the Pentagon to shift back to a more conventional war fighting strategy, focused on countering Russian Federation and China, rather than irregular warfare against militants across the globe, the focus of the post 9/11 period.

Mattis' resignation is the latest post-midterm departure among the top ranks of Trump's administration. He spent 44 years in the Marine Corps, rising to command US Central Command, which oversees the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

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