Mattis Resignation Letter Indicates a Difference of Opinion Key to Decision
President Donald Trump announced General Jim Mattis will be retiring as Secretary of Defense at the end of February. The president praised and thanked him for his service to the country and in the administration.
“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. During Jim’s tenure, tremendous progress has been made, especially with respect to the purchase of new fighting….” the president tweeted.
“….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!”
Secretary Mattis has outlasted other first-term, first-pick cabinet officials in the Trump Administration.
In his resignation letter, the general said that he was “proud of the progress we have made over the last two years,” but clearly indicated differences of opinion over the nation’s role and alliances abroad were key to his decision.
“Because you have the right to have a secretary of defense whose views better align with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position,” General Mattis wrote.
The Trump Administration has always been a push-and-pull between the more interventionist wing of the mainstream Republican establishment, and the “America First” wing represented by the president.
Eight months ago, the president told his national security team in the Situation Room U.S. troops must come home from the civil war in Syria. The primary objective, at least publicly, had been to defeat ISIS, or the Islamic State.
But the true objective for the hawkish wing is regime change, the removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is backed by Russia and Iran.
Last Wednesday, the president declared the U.S. would withdraw the military from Syria, and he did so without the consent of his more hawkish advisors.
CNN reports the more hawkish faction more-closely aligned with Secretary Mattis are concerned a similar announcement regarding Afghanistan is imminent.
The longest war in U.S. history began in 2001 almost immediately after the attacks on September 11, 2001. President Trump has long-criticized continued U.S. involvement.
There are currently 14,000 U.S. troops serving in the country, most of whom part of the seemingly never-ending NATO-led mission to train, advise and assist Afghan forces.
It’s worth noting President Trump campaigned on defeating ISIS and scaling back on U.S. military action. The most recent estimates peg the number of remaining fighters from the former caliphate at only 2,000.