WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Donald Trump says on Twitter that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will retire at the end of February, the latest in a recent flurry of administration departures.
“General Jim Mattis will be retiring, with distinction, at the end of February, after having served my Administration as Secretary of Defense for the past two years,” Trump wrote.
“During Jim’s tenure, tremendous progress has been made, especially with respect to the purchase of new fighting....equipment.”
“General Mattis was a great help to me in getting allies and other countries to pay their share of military obligations. A new Secretary of Defense will be named shortly. I greatly thank Jim for his service!” Trump added.
The 68-year-old Mattis, a Marine Corps general, was one of the most-respected members of the Trump administration and had won praise from both Democrats and Republicans. Some, however, have criticized Mattis for not standing up to Trump for policies that many in Congress have opposed.
In a letter to Trump released to the public, Mattis wrote: "Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours...I believe it is right for me to step down from my position."
Mattis departure, which is likely to concern many critics of the president, is the latest top-level administration departure as Trump nears the halfway point of his four-year term.
The announcement comes a day after Trump surprised and angered many U.S. lawmakers and international allies by announcing that he was withdrawing “all” U.S. troops from Syria, where they are assisting a Syrian Arab and Kurdish alliance fighting against Islamic State (IS) militants and other forces.