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Mattis departs as defense secretary as the Pentagon faces period of uncertainty | The Washington Post
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump and U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis attend the 119th Army-Navy football game at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. December 8, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Young/File Photo

Mattis departs as defense secretary as the Pentagon faces period of uncertainty | The Washington Post

Departing Defense Secretary Jim Mattis closed out a two-year run as Pentagon chief Monday, ushering in a period of intense uncertainty for the military with President Trump set to choose new leadership and issuing murky orders for U.S. troops abroad.

Mattis’s successor on an acting basis will be Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, a longtime executive with the defense contractor Boeing. Shanahan joined the Trump administration in July 2017 with a background in management but no government or foreign policy experience.

Trump initially announced Dec. 19 that the U.S. withdrawal from Syria was imminent, as he declared victory over the Islamic State. “Our boys, our young women, our men, they’re all coming back, and they’re coming back now,” Trump said in a video posted on his Twitter account. “We won.”

His decision drew widespread criticism from lawmakers and allies concerned that a hasty departure of U.S. forces could allow the extremists to regroup.

But in statements since then, including a tweet Monday, the president has suggested that the pullout would not be completed so quickly, adding to the uncertainty about the timing of his plans.

“ISIS is mostly gone,” Trump tweeted Monday, referring to the terrorist group. “We’re slowly sending our troops back home to be with their families, while at the same time fighting ISIS remnants.”

The president’s latest pronouncements about Syria followed more than a week of criticism from many fronts, including quiet pressure from close ally Israel and conservative pro-Israel voters who are part of Trump’s base of support. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has urged Trump to reconsider his abrupt announcement of an end to the mission, a senior Israeli official told reporters Monday. Trump agreed to a gradual withdrawal rather than a sudden one after a phone call with Netanyahu, several Israeli news outlets quoted the unidentified official as saying.

The president’s latest pronouncements about Syria followed more than a week of criticism from many fronts, including quiet pressure from close ally Israel and conservative pro-Israel voters who are part of Trump’s base of support. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has urged Trump to reconsider his abrupt announcement of an end to the mission, a senior Israeli official told reporters Monday. Trump agreed to a gradual withdrawal rather than a sudden one after a phone call with Netanyahu, several Israeli news outlets quoted the unidentified official as saying.

Source: Mattis departs as defense secretary as the Pentagon faces period of uncertainty | The Washington Post