President Donald J. Trump speaks with Secretary of Defense James Mattis and other senior leaders of the armed forces at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., Jan. 27, 2017. (DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr)
resignation of US defense Secretary
Jim Mattis, US President Donald
Trump has appointed an acting successor to take over in the new year.
strongly hinted at policy differences with Mr Trump when he resigned on Friday.
He offered to stay
in the job until February but will now leave on 1 January after Mr Trump
reportedly balked at media coverage of his exit. Deputy Defence Secretary
Patrick Shanahan, 56, will take over the role. Mr Trump has lauded his
achievements and described him as “very talented”. I am pleased to announce
that our very talented Deputy Secretary of Defense, Patrick Shanahan, will
assume the title of Acting Secretary of Defense starting January 1, 2019.
Patrick has a long
list of accomplishments while serving as Deputy, & previously Boeing.
He will be great! Mr Shanahan, a former executive at the
aerospace giant Boeing, joined the Pentagon in July 2017 after Mr Trump
He was reportedly a vocal supporter of the president’s
plan to establish a sixth branch of the armed forces, known as the “space
force”. Originally from Washington state, Mr Shanahan studied mechanical
and business at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
and joined Boeing as an engineer in 1986.
The hammer comes down Donald Trump had initially framed
James Mattis’s departure as a “retirement” but his resignation letter – full of
implied criticism of the president’s foreign policy showed that was not the
seldom handles rebukes kindly, so it became increasingly unlikely amid the
growing furore that the former general would not be allowed his requested
two-month departure timeframe.
On Sunday morning, the hammer came down as is the new
norm via a presidential tweet.
replacement, Deputy Secretary Patrick Shanahan, spent most of his career
working for Boeing.
Having a former
executive of a major defence contractor running the Pentagon, even on a
temporary basis, is unusual, to say the least. It’s a job usually held by
politicians with military oversight experience.
Meanwhile, the president appears to be trying to douse
the fire that started this personnel crisis.
He also tweeted on
Sunday that the US withdrawal from Syria – abruptly announced last week – would
be “slow and highly coordinated”. Given the Mattis news, that may not be enough
to calm the nerves of allies and assuage the anger of US foreign policy hands.
It is, however, a start. Gen Mattis resigned shortly after President Trump
announced his decision to withdraw all US troops from Syria.
While not mentioning it in his resignation letter
directly, the general previously warned that it would be a “strategic blunder”.
In his letter, he also said the president had the right
to appoint someone “whose views are better aligned with yours”. But shortly
after announcing Mr Shanahan’s appointment on Sunday, Mr Trump moved to calm
widespread concerns over the pullout which he initially said would be “rapid”.
Mr Trump said on Twitter that he had spoken with
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey about “our mutual involvement in
Syria, & the slow and highly coordinated withdrawal of US troops from the
office said the two leaders had agreed to “ensure coordination between their
countries’ military, diplomatic and other officials to avoid a power vacuum
which could result following any abuse of the withdrawal and transition phase
Kurdish forces in Syria, which Turkey regards as a
threat, have been successfully fighting the Islamic State group with US
support. They now fear Turkey will use America’s withdrawal to launch a new
campaign against them.
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