Trump names acting Pentagon chief, forcing Mattis out earlier

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The scope of US Defense Secretary James Mattis’s divergence with US President, Donald Trump goes far beyond the US military mission in Syria. Xinhua

WASHINGTON (Xinhua) – US President Donald Trump has announced that he has picked Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan as the acting Pentagon chief, forcing outgoing James Mattis to step down earlier than planned.

Mr Shanahan will assume the role starting Jan. 1, 2019,Mr Trump said in a tweet Sunday noon.

The announcement came only days after Mr Trump announced that Mr Mattis, the current defense secretary, will retire at the end of February next year.

Shortly before Mr Trump tweeted his decision on Sunday, news broke out that the president was furious at days of negative news coverage over Mr Mattis’ resignation and his rebuke over the administration’s treatment of US allies in a resignation letter.

The 68-year-old former Marine Corps general said that his views on treating the allies with respect are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues.

Mr Mattis offered his resignation a day after Mr Trump ordered the withdrawal of the 2,000 or so US troops from Syria and declared victory over the Islamic State militant group, a move that Mr Mattis reportedly disagreed strongly.

The scope of Mr Mattis’ divergence with Mr Trump went far beyond the US military mission in Syria.

Mr Mattis is a defender of the US alliance with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), while the president once bashed NATO for being “obsolete” and often scolded member countries for failing to contribute sufficient funds.

The two also disagreed on issues such as banning transgender recruits from the military, cancelling the joint US-South Korea military exercises, pulling the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal, as well as deploying troops to the US-Mexico border.

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