U.S. President donald trump wants to replace defense secretary james mattis earlier than previously planned after the latter announced his retirement over disagreements with him.
Trump announced on twitter on sunday that the current vice defense secretary, patrick shanahan, would be appointed to the post from 1. January to take over leadership of the department.
Mattis had actually wanted to step down only at the end of february, in order to regulate the transition in an orderly manner. He had announced his withdrawal shortly after trump’s controversial decision to pull troops out of syria. In protest against the syria decision, the US special envoy for the anti-IS coalition, brett mcgurk, also announced his premature resignation.
Trump announced last week that he would withdraw all 2,000 U.S. Troops from syria, claiming that the IS terrorist militia had been defeated there. The decision was met with gross incomprehension both nationally and internationally. On sunday, france’s head of state emmanuel macron also criticized the move and warned: "an ally owes it to itself to be reliable."
Trump reportedly made the decision against the advice of key cabinet members, including mattis. Experts warn that IS is by no means defeated and that withdrawal would have fatal consequences. Even in trump’s own party, the decision caused uproar and concern.
Shortly after the decision mattis had declared that he would vacate his post at the end of february. In a published letter to trump, he justified this with substantive differences of opinion – among other things, because of trump’s course toward allied countries. International partners had to be treated with respect, he warned.
U.S. Media reported trump was very upset about this public statement of protest. On saturday, trump made his first public comments on matti’s withdrawal and reacted to matti’s frontal attack with comparative restraint by his standards. Former president barack obama had fired mattis at the time, trump wrote. "I gave him a second chance." He spoke of an "interesting relationship" with regard to mattis and contradicted the latter’s criticism. "Allies are very important, but not if they take advantage of the u.S.," trump wrote.
With the early dismissal of mattis, however, trump sent a clear signal against his minister. His successor, shanahan, was formerly a manager at the boeing aerospace company and became vice secretary of defense in 2017.
Trump also expressed disdain over mcgurk’s resignation. The latter had still been appointed by obama. Trump commented that mcgurk was only supposed to stay in his post until february anyway and had now announced his withdrawal shortly beforehand. The "fake-news" media made a crude issue out of this "trivial event". He doesn’t even know mcgurk. Senior players in the obama administration at the time considered it a sign of poverty that trump did not know his distinguished special envoy.
The president also complained bitterly about criticism of his syria decision. Others were hailed as heroes for such a decision, but he was severely criticized by the media, he wrote.
At the same time, following the wave of criticism, trump changed his choice of words with regard to IS and now wrote that IS had been "largely" defeated. Other countries in the region, including turkey, could now easily deal with what was left of the terrorist organization. Previously, trump had repeatedly stated that IS had been completely defeated in syria.
The president took pains to dispel the impression that the decision was rash, ill-considered and unprepared. On sunday, he wrote on twitter that he had just spoken with turkish president recep tayyip erdogan about the "slow and highly coordinated" withdrawal of U.S. Soldiers from syria.