Defence Secretary James Mattis, who batted for strong Indo-US military ties, has resigned, citing irreconcilable policy differences with Donald Trump after the US President shocked the Pentagon by deciding to withdraw American troops from strife-torn Syria.
Mattis, latest in a string of senior US officials to quit the Trump administration, in a letter to the president said that he should choose a person who is more in tune with his worldview. Trump announced the resignation in two tweets on Thursday, December 20 evening and said Mattis, will leave at the end of February 2019.
According to reports, 68-year-old Mattis, a retired the United States Marine Corps General, went to the White House on Thursday afternoon in a last attempt to convince Trump to keep the US troops in Syria. He was rebuffed and told the president that he was resigning as a result.
Mattis' resignation letter, a Pentagon spokeswoman said was hand-delivered to the president. In the letter, Mattis told Trump it was the "right time" for him to step down.
"The end date for my tenure is February 28, 2019, a date that should allow sufficient time for a successor to be nominated and confirmed as well as to make sure the Department's interests are properly articulated and protected at upcoming events to include Congressional posture hearings and the NATO Defense Ministerial meeting in February," Mattis said.
The Pentagon chief did not mention if he was resigning specifically over the troop withdrawal decision, which has surprised US allies and even Republican lawmakers.
Mattis and Trump reportedly have had differences on several foreign policy matters, including Syria and Afghanistan. Reports say the president is also considering a drawdown of US troops from the 17-year-long bloody conflict in Afghanistan.
Mattis said in his resignation letter that he believes the US must be resolute in its approach to countries whose strategic interests are increasingly in tension with America's.
"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," he stressed.
"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," he added.
Mattis is the latest senior administration to leave Trump's Cabinet after former Attorney General Jeff Sessions was pushed out in November, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was unceremoniously fired in March and national security adviser H R McMaster was replaced earlier this year.