Trump trashes Mattis after exit: ‘What’s he done for me?’

Jan 04, 2019, 02:05
Trump trashes Mattis after exit: ‘What’s he done for me?’

Several candidates long rumoured to be interested in the post had indicated in recent days, some publicly, that they did not want to succeed Mattis, who was respected in the Pentagon and enjoyed bipartisan support when he departed on December 31. Trump says the USA should let the Taliban and Islamic State militants fight each other there. Shanahan, in a statement on Tuesday shortly after taking over the job, said he looked "forward to working with President Trump to carry out his vision" which includes a surprise withdrawal from Syria and an expected drawdown in Afghanistan, America's longest war.

He added, "President Obama fired him, and essentially so did I".

Trump then asked rhetorically "What's he done for me?" Mr. Trump claimed he had "essentially" fired the former four-star Marine Corps general and criticized in particular Mr. Mattis' handling of the war in Afghanistan. However, as Mattis' brutal letter made clear he was leaving of his own accord because Trump's worldview is so discordant with his own.

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At a Cabinet meeting Wednesday, Trump said Mattis "couldn't believe" how much federal money Trump had helped secure for the military.

Among the most immediate issues on his plate will be the pace at which the USA pulls 2,200 or so troops out of Syria, following Trump's decision last month to exit the war-torn country.

The order sheds some insight on Shanahan's priorities, as he takes the reins of the Pentagon from Mattis. His views on alliance relations and other key defense issues are not well known.

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On his first full day on the job, acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan told senior leaders at the Pentagon on Wednesday to "remember China, China, China", a U.S. defense official told CNN.

The former Boeing executive, who was elevated from the number two Pentagon position to fill the shoes of departing chief Jim Mattis, assembled the top civilian officials at the Defense Department for a meeting. Shanahan had been the deputy secretary since July 2017. It emphasizes the importance of great power competition with Russian Federation and China, after America's many years of fighting insurgent wars in the Middle East.

Like the Obama administration, Trump's government is concerned by what it calls China's militarization of disputed areas in the South China Sea and by its advances in certain high-tech weaponry. Before that, he spent more than 30 years at Boeing.

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With Shanahan moving up from deputy secretary to acting secretary, the Pentagon's budget chief, David Norquist, has been chosen to fill in temporarily as the deputy secretary, according to Pentagon spokesman Tom Crosson.