US Defence Secretary James Mattis, above, who attacked Donald Trump’s foreign policy in his resignation letter late last week, was told by the president on Sunday to leave office on Jan 1, two months early, agencies say.
Mattis’s deputy, Patrick Shanahan, who has strong ties with Trump, will serve as acting Pentagon chief. But Shanahan does not have the deep military or government experience of Mattis.
Trump’s announcement of an early exit for Mattis was expected as he was fuming over the four-star general’s resignation letter which was full of implied criticism of the president’s foreign policy.
In his letter, Mattis said Trump should have a Secretary of Defence whose views are aligned with his. He said the US cannot protect its own interests without respecting and strengthening alliances and partnerships. The Trump administration must be resolute and unambiguous in its approach towards malign actors like China and Russia, he added.
The immediate cause for Mattis’ resignation was, however, Trump’s decision to completely pull out US troops from Syria and partially withdraw them from Afghanistan without consulting Pentagon.
Rubbing salt into the Mattis’ wound, Trump said he gave him a second chance after President Obama fired him over differences about handling Iran in 2013.
For Trump, 2018 is ending in a bad way due to conflicts with top officials, a partial government shutdown disrupting more than 80,000 federal jobs, slowing economy and probe into Russia role in his 2016 campaign.
After Mattis resigned, Brett McGurk, the US special envoy to the global coalition fighting the Islamic State, too quit in protest. More officials could follow suit.