Secretary of Defense James Mattis announced on Thursday that he will retire at the end of February in a resignation letter to President Donald Trump, citing differences with the president on the correct approach to dealing with the Islamic State and allies of the United States.
“One core belief I have always held is that our strength as a nation is inextricably linked to the strength of our unique and comprehensive system of alliances and partnerships,” Mattis said in his resignation letter.
“NATO's 29 democracies demonstrated that strength in their commitment to fighting alongside us following the 9-11 attack on America,” Mattis added. “The Defeat-ISIS coalition of 74 nations is further proof.”
Mattis warned Trump in the resignation letter maintain a certain “approach” against countries whose global strategy conflicts with that of the U.S. and U.S. allies, calling out China and Russia as examples.
“Similarly, I believe we must be resolute and unambiguous in our approach to those countries whose strategic interests are increasingly in tension with ours,” Mattis said in his letter.
“It is clear that China and Russia, for example, want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model - gaining veto authority over other nations' economic, diplomatic, and security decisions - to promote their own interests at the expense of their neighbors, America and our allies,” Mattis added.
In the letter, Mattis told Trump that he deserved to have a secretary of defense whose views were more aligned with the president.
“Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position,” Mattis wrote in his letter.
“The end date for my tenure is February 28, 2019, a date that should allow sufficient time for a successor to be nominated and confirmed as well as to make sure the Department's interests are properly articulated and protected at upcoming events to include Congressional posture hearings and the NATO Defense Ministerial meeting in February,” the letter added.
Mattis’ retirement was first announced by President Trump on Twitter. Trump thanked Mattis for his time in service as secretary of defense over the past two years and acknowledged that Mattis helped him convince members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to begin paying their fair share of national defense.
Per the alliance agreement, members of NATO are required to spend at least 2 percent of their respective countries gross domestic product (GPD) on national defense.
President Trump added on Twitter that he will be announcing his replacement to Mattis “shortly.”