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

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

Mattis announced his resignation in a searing letter just before Christmas, that highlighted his differences with the president over the role of American leadership and alliances.

Trump prefaced his comments Wednesday by saying Mattis had personally thanked him for helping secure $716 billion (U.S.) for national security in the current fiscal year. However, as Mattis' brutal letter made clear he was leaving of his own accord because Trump's worldview is so discordant with his own. Trump says the US should let the Taliban and Islamic State militants fight each other there.

The immediate reason for Mattis' resignation was Trump's announcement that he is ordering USA troops out of Syria.

Meanwhile, retired General David Petraeus said he is not considering joining in the Trump Administration.

On Wednesday, Trump proclaimed to Cabinet members and the assembled press that "as you know, President Obama fired [Mattis], and essentially, so did I".

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Since then former deputy defense secretary Patrick Shanahan, who was previously a senior executive at Boeing, has temporarily run the Pentagon. "We're not talking about vast wealth", Trump said.

But defense officials say he will represent some continuity from Mattis, since he helped craft the department's National Defense Strategy - which shifts the Pentagon's focus from counter-terrorism to great power competition with China and Russian Federation.

"I don't want to be in Syria", Trump said on Wednesday, while adding that "I never said we're getting out tomorrow". 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. In the letter, Mattis said he would step down February 28, but Trump later accelerated that to the end of the year.

In that context, Shanahan said the Pentagon leaders should remember, "China, China, China", according to one official, who was not authorized to publicly discuss internal defense meetings and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The Trump administration has had a troubled relationship with China.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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