Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell said in a statement Friday that he has deep concerns about the departure of Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Business Insider is reporting.
As reported by CBS News, Mattis announced his resignation this week after Donald Trump made the surprising announcement, seemingly out of nowhere and with no consultation from the Pentagon, that the U.S. had achieved “victory” over ISIS in Syria and would be pulling troops out. Similarly, CBS News reports that the president is considering pulling thousands of U.S. troops out of Afghanistan as well.
In his resignation letter, Mattis told Trump that it’s important for the commander in chief to have a defense secretary whose views align with those of the POTUS. Further, he went on to say that the U.S. must maintain a clear focus on Russia, China, and North Korea.
Mattis also pointed out a host of other disagreements he had with Trump, including Trump’s alienation of U.S. allies in Europe; Trump’s announcements of changes to military policy (such as a ban on transgender troops) that come out of nowhere and without consultation with the Pentagon; and Trump’s Muslim ban.
“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.”
McConnell, in his statement, echoed Mattis’ sentiment, in some cases almost word for word. For example, McConnell echoed Mattis’ belief that the U.S. needs to maintain strong relationships with its European allies, and like Mattis, mentioned the Russia threat by name.
“I believe it’s essential that the United States maintain and strengthen the post-World War II alliances that have been carefully built by leaders in both parties. We must also maintain a clear-eyed understanding of our friends and foes, and recognize that nations like Russia are among the latter.”
Meanwhile, the decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria has been met with shock and dismay by military analysts, U.S. allies, and regional powers with stakes in the fight against ISIS.
According to a companion Business Insider report, Russia and Iran will both be able to expand their influence in the region without a U.S. military presence standing in the way. Similarly, Syrian dictator Bashar Assad could use the power vacuum to attempt to regain territory he’s lost in the ongoing Syrian Civil War.
Despite Trump’s claims that ISIS has been defeated, an estimated 30,000 ISIS fighters still remain in Syria.