On Thursday Jim Mattis resigned as the US defense secretary, Mattis will be stepping down at the end of February, telling President Donald Trump in a letter that he has "a right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours."
Mattis’s decision to quit the administration came after Donald Trump confirmed he was ending all US military operations in Syria. He is also reportedly planning to halve the US troop presence in Afghanistan.
His departure was immediately lamented by foreign policy hands and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, who viewed the retired Marine general as a sober voice of experience in the ear of a president who had never held political office or served in the military. Even Trump allies expressed fear over Mattis' decision to quit, believing him to be an important moderating force on the president.
The resignation was a hard blow to Europe as it would lose one of most reliable interlocutors and a firm supporter of the Nato transatlantic alliance. It is seen in Europe as an alarming symbol of Trump’s determination to take personal charge of foreign policy.
Mattis, in his resignation letter, emphasized the importance of standing up for U.S. allies — an implicit criticism of the president's decision on this issue and others.
"While the U.S. remains the indispensable nation in the free world, we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies," Mattis wrote.
The Pentagon has appeared to be caught off guard by a number of Trump policy declarations, often made through Twitter. Those include plans that ultimately fizzled to have a big military parade this month and the more recent decision to send thousands of active duty troops to the Southwest border.