Trump says he fired Mattis, who left over Syria

Erika Holt
January 6, 2019

Trump then asked rhetorically "What's he done for me?". Shanahan had worked for Boeing for 31 years, including in positions overseeing big defence programs.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told the military service chiefs Wednesday that dealing with China would be his top priority. Trump asserted that the reports give away too much information and should not be publicly released, although the law that created that watchdog's office says its reports must be made public.

Mattis' public resignation could also make Senate confirmation perilous for any hand-picked successor.

Mattis resigned as defense secretary in late December, citing in his resignation letter differences with Trump on major defense policies. As deputy, Shanahan often had to fill in for Mattis in meetings, including with members of the cabinet.

Mattis stepped down as defense secretary last month over differences with Trump on a host of national security issues, particularly Trump's decision to withdraw US troops from Syria.

The president - who was exempted from the draft during the Vietnam War over bone spurs - added that USA generals have done a bad job in Afghanistan over almost two decades and said that he thinks he "would've been a good general, but who knows". Posing for a photo with Trump is Lieutenant Commander Kyu Lee, who said he is the chaplain of Navy SEAL Team Five.

"It's sand and it's death", he said.

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Since the resignation, Trump has indicated flexibility on his withdrawal schedule but has also made it clear that he did not intend to keep U.S. troops in "unending wars" for long.

That vision includes a surprise withdrawal from Syria and an expected drawdown in Afghanistan, America's longest war.

As a longtime defense industry executive, Shanahan would be no stranger to issues that are preoccupying the administration, such as intellectual property theft, forced technology transfers from USA companies doing business in China, China's rapidly modernizing military, and the U.S.'s eroding military technological edge.

The U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, did not elaborate on Shanahan's views on China. "I have the greatest confidence in his abilities to lead a phenomenally talented team while performing the duties as Deputy Secretary of Defense", Shanahan said in a statement.

Trump also said that Shanahan, Mattis's deputy and a former Boeing executive, would serve as the acting defence secretary for "a long time".

Relations between the world's two largest economies have plumbed new depths under Trump, with a trade war and disagreements over Taiwan and the South China Sea.

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