Riled over Mattis's apparent snub, Trump axes defense secretary two months early

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U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday said he was replacing Defense Secretary Jim Mattis two months earlier than had been expected, a move officials said was driven by Trump's anger at Mattis' resignation letter and its rebuke of his foreign policy.

Trump had initially framed Mattis' departure as a "retirement" but his resignation letter - full of implied criticism of the president's foreign policy - showed that was not the case.

Shanahan, Trump's choice to replace Mattis on an interim basis, was confirmed as Mattis' No.2 in the Pentagon a year ago by an overwhelming margin that came after a confirmation process that included a clash with the late Arizona Senator John McCain.

US President Donald Trump claimed that he gave Defence Secretary James Mattis a "second chance" after the retired Marine general was "ingloriously fired" from military leadership by former president Barack Obama. Please refresh the page for the fullest version.

The interim replacement for Mattis is a former Boeing Co. executive who joined the administration in 2017, reinforcing ties between the Defense Department and the Chicago-based defense contractor.

Brett McGurk, the US envoy to the global coalition fighting the Islamic State, has resigned in protest of US President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw US troops from Syria.

Trump said Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan would take over on an acting basis from January 1.

In the letter, which was described to the Associated Press by an official familiar with its contents, McGurk said fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) were on the run, but not yet defeated as Trump had said.

In his letter of resignation, Mattis said the president deserves a defense secretary who is "better aligned" with his worldview.

Mattis' leaving the Trump administration earlier means that he will not oversee USA troops withdrawn in Syria as well as reported reduction of us soldiers in Afghanistan.

A senior White House official said that Mattis resigned during an Oval Office meeting with Trump on Thursday.

Mick Mulvaney told ABC's "This Week" that the president and his defense chief "just could never get on the same page" on Syria, adding that Trump had said since his presidential campaign that "he wanted to get out of Syria".

The early consequences of the new era were already apparent at year's end, with Trump not stopping a partial government shutdown despite the advice of GOP leaders and ordering the withdrawal of US troops from Syria over Mattis' objections.

The Pentagon on Sunday would only say that Mattis serves at the pleasure of the president.

"We are substantially subsidizing the Militaries of many VERY rich countries all over the world, while at the same time these countries take total advantage of the USA, and our TAXPAYERS, on Trade", Trump tweeted. "Some thought I shouldn't, I thought I should", Trump wrote on Twitter on Saturday. "I greatly thank Jim for his service!" he said. In a tweet that day, the president declared that "We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency".

Mattis, according to the paper, resigned "in large part" because of the president's abrupt decision to withdraw troops from Syria and Afghanistan. The editorial board of Israel's Haaretz newspaper called Trump's decision a "slap in the face to Benjamin Netanyahu" and said that USA involvement was "an important counterweight to the Russians in establishing the rules of the game in the region".