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Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis Resigning

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis visits the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea in 2017. DoD Photo

This post will be updated as new information becomes available.

Jim Mattis, the longest-serving cabinet secretary of the Trump Administration, submitted his resignation on Thursday following the White House announcement the U.S. would withdraw about 2,000 ground troops from Syria and reports of a drawdown in Afghanistan.

Mattis told President Donald Trump in his resignation letter he was committed to the U.S.-led international order built after World War II and to standing up to the influence of China and Russia that use authoritarian tools to advance their own interests internationally.

“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,” Mattis wrote.
“Because you have the 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.”

He pledged to remain in office until Feb. 28 – a timeline that would allow him to guide the Pentagon through the Fiscal Year 2020 budget submission to Congress, attend the NATO Defense Ministerial Meeting in Brussels and ensure a smooth transition from outgoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford to successor Army Gen. Mark Milley.

“I pledge my full effort to a smooth transition that ensures the needs and interests of the 2.15 million Service Members and 732,079 DoD civilians receive undistracted attention of the Department at all times so that they can fulfill their critical, round-the-clock mission to protect the American people,” Mattis wrote.

The resignation comes a day after Trump announced via Twitter that the U.S. would withdraw ground troops that have been stationed in Northeastern and southern Syria as part of the anti-ISIS Operation Inherent Resolve. Mattis has argued that a small U.S. force should remain to conduct counterterrorism operations even as ISIS’ strength has waned in both Syria and Iraq. It also comes the same day The Wall Street Journal reported the White House was on the cusp of a drawdown of forces in Afghanistan that could begin as early as January.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaks with U.S. Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis before the Sept. 11 Pentagon Memorial Observance Ceremony at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., Sept. 11, 2018. DoD Photo

“I think it shows how serious the president is about wanting to come out of conflicts,” a senior U.S. official told the paper about how the Syria decision has affected Trump’s thinking on Afghanistan. “I think he wants to see viable options about how to bring conflicts to a close.”

The U.S. has about 14,000 troops in the country.

In the Marines, Mattis rose to prominence by commanding Task Force 58 as part of the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. In 2003, he led the 1st Marine Division during the invasion of Iraq. He led the Marine Corps Combat Development Command and commanded Joint Force Command before taking over U.S. Central Command in 2010. He served in that role until he retired in 2013.

Following retirement, Mattis was a fixture at the Hoover Institution in Stanford, Calif., before being tapped by Trump to lead the Pentagon in December of 2016. The Senate waived the seven-year waiting period established after World War II for retired military officials to take over as Secretary of Defense.

Mattis was sworn in as defense secretary on Jan. 20, 2017, making him among the first of the Cabinet members to start working for the Trump Administration. His name came up early during Trump’s transition period, with Mattis being a hugely popular figure with military members and veterans and Trump seeing an appeal in having retired generals on his staff.

Less than two weeks into the job, Mattis released budget guidance stating the military needed to rebuild readiness and wholeness before it would consider growing the force. The following month he requested supplemental Fiscal Year 2017 funding to start getting after the readiness problems he saw in the military force. In May, he released an FY 2018 budget that again strove to address readiness and wholeness issues.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis speaks with Croatia’s Minister of Defence Damir Krstičević during a meeting at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., July 12, 2017. (DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

Mattis’ attention, though, quickly turned to readying the military for great power competition. Though his Pentagon is still focused on readiness, Mattis in January released a National Defense Strategy that was squarely aimed at setting up the Defense Department to succeed in conflict against Russia or China. The document outlined the need for the force to be more lethal, and Mattis summed up his position by saying, “everything we do must contribute to the lethality of our military. We cannot expect success fighting tomorrow’s conflicts with yesterday’s weapons or equipment.”

Mattis’ departure is the last to be announced of three Marine Corps generals who served together in the Trump Administration. Dunford is already set to retire in the fall of 2019 after serving four years as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Retired Gen. John Kelly will leave the West Wing by the end of the month after serving as White House chief of staff and Secretary of Homeland Security before that.President Donald Trump announced on Thursday Secretary of Defense James would be stepping down at the end of February on Twitter.

  • NavySubNuke

    Utterly terrifying. No matter how crazy Trump acted I always trusted Mattis to keep DoD on the right track. God only knows who will replace him but I wish them the best.

    • Marjus Plaku

      YUP!

    • NavySubNuke

      Also hoping Mattis will run for President in 2020 — I would be proud to vote for him.
      It would be nice to have someone running for President who is worthy of the office, unlike the 2016 where I happily “wasted” my vote on a third party candidate rather than support Hillary (who really should be in jail) or Trump.

      • ElmCityAle

        “who really should be in jail” – except for the lack of any legal reason that could be acted upon by the current administration, the multiple failed congressional investigations, etc. So yeah, if opinions were enough to put people in jail – and thank God in our country they are not – sure.

        • NavySubNuke

          You mean besides gross negligence in handling of classified documents? Retaining thousands of classified documents on a personal server would be a crime for any normal American. Luckily for Hillary she isn’t one of those and gets special protection.

          • Duane

            You keep saying that but FBI and Dept. of Justice completely exonerated HRC of any potential Federal crimes.

          • Ctrot

            And there was absolutely no political considerations at all made in those decisions, right? That is laughable and you know it, you’re just too dishonest to admit it because you are, despite your protests to the contrary, a leftist partisan.

          • Duane

            No, there weren’t. The Dept. of Justice does not represent any political party or ideology – it just represents the American people, justice, and the US Constitution and Federal laws.

            Of course, Trump and his brainless sycophantic supporters, believes that HE is the Supreme Being and despot, and that whatever he thinks and says is justice.

            We have never in all American history suffered such a despotic, undemocratic, unrepublican narcissistic fool like Trump. God help us if we cannot remove Trump from office sooner rather than later.

          • Ctrot

            “Dept. of Justice does not represent any political party or ideology”

            Oh please, you know better than that. DOJ employees are HUMANS. they have political opinions just like everyone else. And they entire DOJ has over the years, just like most (if not all) federal bureaucracies, become increasingly more heavily influenced by leftists.

          • muzzleloader

            So you think that Trump supporters think Trump is the Supreme Being, as in God??
            If you aren’t on medications dude, you really need to be.
            The DOJ is not political?
            You mean that the 17 democrat lawyers on Muellers team are not?
            Do you mean that although Rod Rosenstien the FBI director was at HRC’s victory party on election night isn’t political?
            Do you mean that James Comey’s wife and two daughters campaigned for Hillary Clinton isn’t political?
            Poleeze!

          • PolicyWonk

            I love how your devoid-of-fact declaration that the entire DoJ is corrupt is supposedly going to justify Trump’s actions. The evidence of Trump corruption strays far beyond the DoJ and well into history.

            One might think you got your education at Trump University!

          • muzzleloader

            And I love your tactic of deflection. You are good at it.

          • PolicyWonk

            I’ve worked for both state and federal governments in a number of varying departments in a variety of capacities. One thing I’ve found is that by far our government employees are honest, patriotic, qualified, and dedicated to the rule and spirit of the laws and regulations they are charged with abiding to.

            Like any large organization, they have their share of idiots.

            But to claim the entire government is corrupt (or the entire FBI, DoJ, etc.) is to be on the wrong side of the discussion, especially when attempting to defend anyone/anything as hopelessly/visibly incompetent, corrupt, erratic, or inept as this administration and its chief executive.

          • PolicyWonk

            The decisions were made as a result of cold, hard, legal considerations – and nothing more. Sadly, where I typically find little reason to agree with Duane: he’s right.

          • Ctrot

            That’s nonsense, but then you’re obviously (from your other posts) pretty left wing too.

          • PolicyWonk

            Oh. A conspiracy theory subscriber, eh?

            Left wing? Hardly. A traditional republican (fact-based, fiscal and economic conservative, strong foreign policy, strong military, environmental protection, law enforcement, healthcare for all, and strong education).

            Today’s republicans don’t stand for anything, since they abandoned all the principals of what made the republican party a political powerhouse. And given the POTUS’s stance on racism and all but open support for white nationalists, etc.: the party of Lincoln is dead in all but name.

            When today’s GOP wouldn’t elect a Roosevelt, Lincoln, Eisenhower, Reagan, GHW Bush, Gerald Ford, or even a Nixon to the office of the presidency: its no longer the GOP.

            I am therefore an independent.

            Cheers.

          • muzzleloader

            Yes, a corrupt DOJ headed by Janet Lynch and a corrupt FBI headed by James Comey did “ exonerate” HRC.

          • Duane

            Comey was a lifelong Republican … and it never mattered. Ditto with Lynch being a Democrat, and it never mattering.

            Only Trump and his idiot supporters think Justice is just whatever the man in the oval office declares.

            We got rid of our kings 242 years ago. Didn’t anybody ever tell you that before?

          • muzzleloader

            Comey was a lifelong republican, so is Mueller.
            That doesn’t mean jack.
            They are both members of the swamp, which is both republicans and democrats.
            As for Kings, Obama ruled by decree and executive order, so don’t lecture me about Kings.
            As for trump supporters being idiots, you just can’t help yourself, because like most liberal progressives, you are arrogant and condescending.
            Merry Christmas.

          • PolicyWonk

            As for Kings, Obama ruled by decree and executive order, so don’t lecture me about Kings.
            =============================
            And Trump, who dumped on Obama’s use of executive orders, did exactly the same thing. The swamp is ever-deeper now that the King Of Corruption is in the Oval Office, that the evidence in that regard is indeed staggering.

            The assumption that every investigation and employee of the government at either the federal or state level is corrupt is nothing more than a sick attempt to justify supporting the unjustifiable.

            If these investigations were unwarranted, then somehow by now the whistle would’ve been blown and evidence made public in some part of all this.

            Yet….nothing.

          • old guy

            OOOOH, Harry, where are you, now that we need you so badly. We have Looney Tunes versus Disneyland.

          • Ed L

            ruby ridge Waco etc.

          • SDW

            You left off your list of Federal Agent gross misbehavior pertinent to the subject at hand the bloodthirsty assassination of Clyde Barrow.

          • PolicyWonk

            W/r/t to blatant corruption today, by far the lion’s share (by virtue of the evidence available), includes: the dozens of indictments, 17 investigations on the POTUS alone (let alone his blatant and well-documented dishonesty), guilty pleas, and multitude of now-pending lawsuits (NYDC) that all point to the denizens of this administration and its associates.

            This is perhaps the only administration possible, that could make the Clinton’s look pure as snow.

          • Ron Snyder

            That is funny Duane. Please start taking your medicines again.

          • PolicyWonk

            You mean besides gross negligence in handling of classified documents?
            ===============================
            The majority of which wasn’t classified when they landed on her server (and were only after the fact). And while no one’s going to say it was the right thing to do (and even she says otherwise), no one involved in the GOP’s never ending investigations on the matter found any malicious intent, and zero evidence of any information going to where it shouldn’t.

            OTOH, then we have this POTUS, who gave an ally’s code-word-level secrets to a known enemy (Russia), causing immense damage to our security-sharing relationships with our allies and endangering the lives of the agents in the field. He also insists on using an easy-to-intercept, unsecured cell phone, and now we have his daughter, despite all the Clinton email hoopla, who then uses commercial email for government business. Ignorance is not a defense in any of the above cases, in light of what Mr. Trump (and family) campaigned on.

            So, getting all hyped up about Mrs. Clinton (again), given the above, looks pretty lame. Maybe you can explain why it shouldn’t be considered as such under the circumstances?

          • NavySubNuke

            Everyone with a clearance knows that things we say and type can be “born” classified.
            Besides those thousands of documents, which someone of her supposed “experience ” should have recognized, the larger issue is the TS/SCI data. That is what should get her and her cronies who were distributing it put in jail. Stuff doesn’t end up with an SCI tag lightly. If you have ever had a clearance you know what I mean.
            The only known leaker to be prosecuted from Obama’s circle is General Cartwright who was spared from prison by a pardon since his leaks aided Obama’s 2012 reelection.
            There should be more. Justice demands more. But there will not be more since only regular people have to face justice, not politicians.

      • old guy

        That would make 3 in a row, egomaniacs, if he made it.

    • old guy

      When I was in, I knew him as a bright up and coming officer. Gen, Krulak was his “Rabbi”. We all knew him as a Very tough minded, “my way or the highway” type. Both Presidens Obama and Trump, apparently, found him too much to take, obviously. I’m hoping the Prez picks Jim Webb, but that is a long shot.

    • RobM1981

      “Terrifying?” Seriously, this is what brings you Terror?

      Sec. Mattis worked for Trump, every minute of every day. There will be a new SecDef, nothing consequential will change, unless Trump chooses poorly. He chose well this past time, so lighten up.

  • PolicyWonk

    God help the United States of America.

    This nation has just lost an outstanding Sec Def, one of the very few truly qualified cabinet members of this administration, who simply couldn’t work with the highly erratic, ethically challenged, loose cannon that is this POTUS.

    • Centaurus

      It is a commentary on the inept leader for whom he worked. China and Russia applaud this comedic display. Where to now ?

      • PolicyWonk

        I wish I knew – but this man is NOT stable – and NOT looking at what is best for interests of the USA.

        Mattis’s resignation letter was devoid of any traditional text one would normally see, such as “it was a pleasure to serve in your administration”, “thank you for the privilege”, “your valuable leadership”, etc.

        What was NOT included in that letter, is every bit as telling as the content that WAS included.

  • Bryan

    Have you all looked at what is happening in northern Iraq? Forget Syria we are going to need another surge in Iraq…or perhaps we can wise up and understand that Iraq is not going to be what President Bush wanted. And Syria isn’t going to be what President Obama wanted. Mattis wasn’t going to fix it. He was going to stay 18 more years and piss away trillions of dollars we don’t have.

    Thank you for your service Mattis. Enjoy your retirement.

    Dear President Trump, it’s time for a troubleshooter as Sec Def.

    • old guy

      WELL SAID.

    • Duane

      It’s time for Trump to be removed from office.

      • old guy

        OK, but don’t rush into it. Give it about 6 years, and I’m with you.

        • muzzleloader

          lol

  • waveshaper1

    SecDef Mattis is taking the easy way out. It sure sounds like he might have plagiarized SecDef Hagel’s 2014 resignation letter:<)

    • old guy

      AGREED. Disrespectful, demeaning, self-serving, dangerous. enemy assisting blather. My advice to Mattis, “Remember, a closed mouth gathers no feet”

      • Duane

        All of your words apply only to Trump, not Mattis.

        • old guy

          Surprise, I agree. But that could have been said about half of our
          presidents. My favorite, Prez Teddy R, would make PRESIDENT TRUMP (and ll of you fruitcakes remember that) look like a shrinking violet.

  • Mattis resigned because he was part of the bureaucracy and couldn’t accept that there might be a different way to do things.

    IS was decisively defeated over a year ago, why did he want us to continue our occupation of 1/3 of Syria when it puts us in substantial danger of open conflict with Russia and Turkey? This needs to be the new American model – crush the threat and move on. Rebuilding nations doesn’t work unless you are willing to spend decades and outright colonize them.

    • NavySubNuke

      Germany and Japan disagree with you…. as does most of the rest of Western Europe for that matter. Of course rebuilding civilized parts of the world is different then trying to rebuild Muslim portions.

      • Germany and Japan prove my point – we officially ran their governments for a decade, unofficially did so for a bit longer, and still have massive military forces in place 73 years later with no end in sight.

        • NavySubNuke

          They don’t prove your point about nation building at all since none of the troops are there for nation building or internal stabilization.
          The fact that Germany and Japan are such stable and productive allies and willingly play such important roles in the ability of the US to project power far from our shores actually shows how wrong you are. Especially when you consider the money Japan pays for US troops to be there (hint: multiple billions per year) as well as there support for R&D efforts such as SM3 Block2A.

        • Duane

          We are not nation building in Syria. We are keeping belligerent parties from going to war against each other that would completely upend the middle east and adjacent parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa. All accompllshed with just a handful of US troops.

    • old guy

      You are, exactly, correct. The Prez has had NO support from Congress, although All of his actions, have resulted in better positioning, in the world. Undermining his novel, innovative calling out the self serving “Allies” in NATO and the UN has strengthened our position and getting them to put up or shut up has lowered the cost to the US taxpayers.
      China Russia and Iran are taking solace, not from his actions, but from the “SWAMP’s opposition.

      • Duane

        Trump is the swamp .. the swamp of treason and self-dealing.

      • Horn

        In his first week Trump withdrew the US from the TPP agreement. Despite its flaws the TPP would have been the ultimate leverage against China in any sort of trade or military conflict. Obama understood that, Clinton understood that although she said she would renegotiate several things, Trump didn’t get it and now our farmers are losing business and our businesses are paying tariffs on imports. Trump has no idea how the economy really works, and no idea that coalitions and alliances provide the best leverage during any sort of confrontation.

      • Centaurus

        Perhaps, old guy, you should run for president so that we can become the isolationist old baglady that Trump-de-dump just isn’t being allowed to turn us into.

        • old guy

          If it weren’t for the fact that I am pushing 92, have bad eyes, hearing, knees and neck, I would be up for it, It may be strange to you of the political hack character, but ALL 6 of the other WW2 vets and I, in my VFW post think the letteris pure trash and lowers my respect for Mattis to the level of hate diplayed by the lefties, when Obama fired him, or didn’t you zealots know that?

    • Duane

      He resigned because the insane Trump is busy trying to destroy 70 year old alliances that have kept America safe for all that time. And because Trump paid off his Russian benefactors, an act of Treason, by handing a complete victory to Putin, to whom he offered a free $50M penthouse to get Putin’s permission to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. Trump openly conspired with Putin to steal the 2016 election, and lied about his extensive and gross business relationship with Putin and the Russians, whom he has been defending ever since he entered office, including denying the conclusions of 17 separate US intelligence agencies and the US Senate Intelligence Committee (chaired by GOP) that the Russians interfered in the election to promote Trump.

      Trump must be impeached and convicted and removed from office because he is an ongoing menace to America.

      Our involvement in Syria was to prevent Russia and their Iranian ally from taking it over completely, and to prevent Turkey from invading Kurdistan and wiping out the Kurds .. and to keep the Iranians from building a massive military presence in southern Syria from which to attack and invade and destroy our long time ally Israel.

      A few thousand Americans accomplished all of that. And now Trump betrayed our nation and our allies in a simple policy-by-tweet, paying back his Russian masters.

  • CharleyA

    What a sh*tshow.

  • old guy

    It amazes me that when Obama did the same thing, he was complemented.
    Mattis needs to know who his CIC is. We have had 4 star turkeys before. I am not commenting on the President’s objectives, because I am not privvy to all the facts, but I recognize out of control EGO when I see it.

  • Ed L

    Bring our troops home and build a wall around the Middle East and Southwest Asia. Let the Iranians mine the PG and tell the EU and UN it’s there problem. If congress wants to keep our people in the hind end of the world let them pass bills and resolutions that can’t be veto.

  • Ed L

    The new SecDef needs to be a female Boudica or Boudicca (also Boadicea or Boudicea /boʊdɪˈsiːə/, and known in Welsh as Buddug Welsh pronunciation: [ˈbɨ̞ðɨ̞ɡ])

  • East Bound & Down

    One of my concerns is that apparently after meeting with Erdogan of Turkey who is a closet Islamic Fundamentalist, President Trump announced the withdrawal of all U.S. personnel from Syria. I hope by doing this we will not be “throwing the Kurds under the bus” as President Bush #1 did with them and the Shiites who revolted at his urging in the southern swamps of Iraq. Many of them were slaughtered by Saddam Husein’s troops and attack helos. Erdogan would like nothing better than to have free rein to wipe out the Kurds whom he and Iraq view as major-league thorns in their sides! I also recall that the Turkish American-made tanks sat on the Turkish border adjacent to Syria and stood by as a bunch of Kurds and Yazidis were cornered and shot-up by ISIS troops!

  • old guy

    I find it curious that when Obama fired him, (which I agreed with), the looneys described him as just a tad better than Benedict Arnold. Now that President Trump has fired him (which I also agree with) he has become at least as great as George Washington.
    All biased PHONEYS.

  • RobM1981

    This is how things are supposed to work. Trump chose a very good man, but a man that he never really aligned with 100%. He knew that, but he chose him anyhow. This is how adults work. Who do you align with 100%? Not your kids; not your wife; not your own boss.

    Mattis is more hawkish than Trump. Trump has been very, very clear since long before he was even a candidate, that he’s strong on defense, but not on offense. He doesn’t believe in an imperialist USA. He also doesn’t believe in openly supporting freeloading “allies.”

    Reasonable people can debate these things, which is essentially what Trump and Mattis have done. Mattis gave us two very good years. It’s time to part ways. Again, this is how things are supposed to work.

    Don’t be like the “media” and get all twisted up about this. There are enough real things to worry about.

    • waveshaper1

      Hopefully Trump has finally learned the following lessons and will apply it when he makes his next SecDef or other key cabinet position picks; “Don’t hire any former generals that were “fired” by a previous President or anyone that was bankrolled by the MIC or a Unregistered Agent of a Foreign Government or is a Monk/a virgin or etc.
      Example; General Flynn/General Mattis were fired by a previous President /then hired by Trump and they both had the above listed “Flaws/Problems/Issues”:<).