Secretary of Defense James Mattis to Step Down

Secretary of Defense James Mattis announced Thursday he would be resigning from his position in February, in a letter to the President.

Mattis’s resignation comes almost immediately after President Trump announced the United States would be withdrawing military personnel from Syria. Differing visions on the decision seem to have had an impact upon Mattis’s resignation, as the retired Marine Corps general stated that President Trump had “the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects.” While not explicitly mentioning Syria, Mattis alluded to his differing views from Trump on national security strategy in a previous paragraph.

Mattis had endured in his position as Secretary of Defense from the beginning of the Trump position, and will have served more than two years in the position upon his departure from office- longer than many other initial cabinet members of the Trump administration. He came into the position after a distinguished 44-year career in the United States Marine Corps, retiring as a General in 2013. Mattis was a veteran of the Persian Gulf War, the War in Afghanistan, and the 2003 Iraq War, becoming somewhat of an celebrity amongst service members known for a colorful personality.

Although contention between the national security visions of Trump and Mattis led to the latter’s resignation, both the outgoing Secretary of Defense and President touched upon accomplishments made at the Department of Defense during Mattis’s term. Progress had been made in motivating NATO allies of the United States to place more money into defense in accordance with their obligation to spend 2.0% of GDP as a term of NATO’s charter.

The departure of Mattis from the Department of Defense could potentially mean that the Trump administration will move forward on a withdrawal of U.S military forces from Afghanistan, after a record-setting 18-year conflict in the country.

It’s likely that a nominee for Secretary of Defense will be put forth by the administration within the next week or two, and Mattis pledged to work to ensure a smooth transition.