US Defense Secretary James Mattis has resigned, pointing to differences with Donald Trump over the treatment of allies, and the US approach to “malign actors and strategic competitors”.
His resignation came after he went to the White House on Thursday afternoon, in an effort to persuade Trump to agree to a gradual withdrawal of troops from Syria and to leave a residual force of a few hundred, diplomatic sources said. He also opposed Trump’s plans to halve the US contingent in Afghanistan. His resignation suggests those appeals were rejected.
In the resignation letter, Mattis also signaled his concern with the way Trump treated allies in NATO as well as rivals such as China and Russia.
He wrote that his “core belief” is that U.S. strength is “inextricably linked with the strength of our unique and comprehensive system of alliances and partnerships.
My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues. We must do everything possible to advance an international order that is most conducive to our security, prosperity and values, and we are strengthened in this effort by the solidarity of our alliances.
Because you have a right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position,” Mattis wrote.
Recall that Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that Trump had ordered the drawdown of 7,000 US troops in Afghanistan, half the US military presence there. On the same day, the Pentagon delivered a report to Congress arguing for the effectiveness of US support for the Afghan armed forces.