Mattis wishes troops 'Merry Christmas' ahead of departure

Geraldine Edwards
December 29, 2018

Yet it may be tempting to read between the lines of his holiday note, given the tone and content of Mattis's resignation letter.

Mattis offered to stay on the job until the end of February to give Trump time to consider a replacement, but the president ordered him out by January 1.

"I am particularly distressed that he is resigning due to sharp differences with the president", the Kentucky Republican said in a statement.

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Mattis announced his resignation after Trump ordered the withdrawal of US forces from Syria against the advice of the retired Marine general.

On Christmas Eve, Mattis sent an official memo to all American service members - possibly his last official memo as secretary of defense.

Trump has stood by his Syria decision despite fierce blowback, telling detractors that the pullout should come as "no surprise" given his 2016 campaign promises and arguing that America's role as "Policeman of the Middle East" is not worth the sacrifice.

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The departing defense secretary called his brother over the weekend to inform him that instead of leaving the administration in February, as he planned to do with his resignation, President Trump wanted him to leave sooner.

The video, dated December 19, shows Mattis before a wall of flags, praising USA forces for serving the country on a day many Americans take off from work.

Mattis issued a letter of resignation last Thursday, a day after Trump made the surprise announcement that he was ordering the withdrawal of the estimated 2,000 USA troops in Syria. "With me, hit hard instead by the Fake News Media". While President Obama repeatedly promised to pull all troops out of Afghanistan by 2014, US and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces remain there in a predominately training and advising role.

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Reports by United States media indicate that Trump administration has ordered the U.S. military to start withdrawing up to 7,000 troops from Afghanistan in the coming months.

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