US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis abruptly said he was quitting on Thursday after falling out with President Donald Trump over his foreign policies, including surprise decisions to yank troops from Syria and start planning a drawdown in Afghanistan.
Mattis announced plans to depart in a candid resignation letter to Trump that laid bare the growing divide between them, and implicitly criticized Trump for failing to value America’s closest allies, who fought alongside the United States in both conflicts.
He released the letter after a face-to-face meeting with Trump in which the two men also aired their differences, a senior White House official said.
“Because you have a right to 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,” Mattis said in the letter.
US officials said the resignation had not been forced by Trump.
Trump announced on Wednesday that US troops in Syria would be withdrawn, a decision that upended American policy in the region.
On Thursday, an official said the president was planning to withdraw at least 5,000 of the 14,000 US troops in Afghanistan – another blow to Mattis, who advocated for a strong US military presence to bolster diplomatic peace efforts.
Mattis, a retired Marine general whose embrace of NATO and America’s traditional alliances often put him at odds with Trump had advised against the Syria withdrawal. One official said it was a contributing factor to his resignation.
The news is certain to shock US military allies, already bewildered by what they see as Trump’s unpredictable, go-it-alone approach to global security, and raises questions about whether Mattis‘ successor will be as steadfast about traditional treaty commitments, including to NATO.
When Mattis interviewed with Trump for the job in 2016, he split with the president-elect on a host of issues, including on NATO and theuse of torture. Trump ultimately deferred to Mattis, who opposed the latter, signaling that he could be persuaded by his advisers.
But as time grew, Trump increasingly acted on his own instincts on a host of national security issues, choosing an “America First” agenda that contradicted Mattis‘ core beliefs.
Mattis‘ letter indicated that he disagreed with Trump’s isolationist policies, writing that it was his belief the United States needed to maintain strong alliances and show allies respect.
Trump has withdrawn the United States from several international agreements since taking office in January 2017.
The Mattis resignation letter also said that he believed the United States “must be resolute and unambiguous in our approach to those countries whose strategic interests are increasingly in tension with ours.” He identified Russia and China as countries that “want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model.”
Mattis‘ resignation was greeted with regret on Capitol Hill, by both Republicans and Democrats.
US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell indicated he was in agreement with Mattis on America’s alliances and on Russia, whom he described as a foe.
“But I am particularly distressed that he is resigning due to sharp differences with the president on these and other key aspects of America’s global leadership,” McConnell said in a statement.
Senator Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, called it “a significant loss and a real indication that President Trump’s foreign policy agenda has failed and continues to spiral into chaos.”
WHITE HOUSE UNPREDICTABILITY
The shifts in significant aspects of US foreign policy and Mattis‘ addition to the long list of senior Trump administration figures who have quit or been removed added to the sense of an increasingly unpredictable White House as Trump approaches the halfway point of his four-year term.
And if defense policy disagreements were not enough distraction for a president who is under investigation by a special counsel over Russian interference in the 2016 US election, financial markets took a beating this week and a US government shutdown loomed because of funding disputes over Trump’s desire to build a wall on the US-Mexico border.
This year has been the worst for world stock markets since the 2008 global financial crisis, with MSCI’s 47-country world stocks index down 10 percent.
Trump, announcing Mattis‘ departure on Twitter, said he would nominate a successor soon.
“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,” he said.
One possible candidate to replace Mattis as defense chief could be Republican Senator Tom Cotton, long considered a front-runner to eventually take the role.
Trump’s White House has had the highest turnover of senior-level staff of the past five presidents, according to the Brookings Institution think tank.
Some departed unceremoniously, such as Trump’s first Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, whom Trump fired via Twitter in March.
Speculation that Mattis might not last long in his post grew in October when Republican Trump said in a CBS interview that the general was “sort of a Democrat” and might be leaving. Mattis responded at the time by telling reporters that he had Trump’s full support.
Stephen Miller, a senior White House adviser, said Trump was entitled to a Pentagon chief with whom he could agree.
“This is an opportunity for the whole country to get a new secretary of defense who will be aligned with the president on these critical issues, whether you’re talking about in Syria, whether you’re talking about across the Middle East in general,” Miller told CNN.
Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
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Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
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Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
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