US Secretary of Defence James Mattis has announced that he will step down from the Pentagon, citing differences of opinion with President Donald Trump, with policy on Syria reportedly being the final straw.
Mattis, who submitted his resignation letter on Thursday, is expected to step down from his post at the end of February.
His departure had been anticipated since Trump announced earlier this week that he was withdrawing US troops from Syria despite opposition from US allies and the president’s own top military officials
In his resignation letter, Mattis said he was stepping down to allow Trump to have a defence chief whose views align more closely with his own, especially relating to NATO, cooperation with US allies, and standing up to Russia and China.
“Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defence 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,” the letter reads.
While his resignation letter does not mention Syria, the New York Times reported that he quit in protest against the president’s decision to pull US troops out of the country, a move that some observers say amounts to abandoning Washington’s Kurdish allies, who helped the US fight the Islamic State (IS) group.
Citing unidentified US officials, the Times said Mattis tendered his resignation after he failed to convince Trump to reverse his decision on Syria during a meeting at the White House on Thursday afternoon.
Despite that report, Trump thanked Mattis for his service and praised him for making a contribution to his administration