Pentagon chief Mattis quits, citing policy differences with Trump

WASHINGTON, Dec 20 (Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, a stabilizing force in President Donald Trump's Cabinet, abruptly announced his resignation on Thursday and said Trump should pick a successor whose views align more with his own.

Mattis' resigned a day after Trump announced that U.S. troops in Syria would be withdrawn, a decision that upended American policy in the region, and on the same day that officials said the president was considering a substantial U.S. pullout from the long-running conflict in Afghanistan.

"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 his resignation letter, released by the Pentagon.

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Notable people who have been fired or resigned from Trump's administration

U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis

(REUTERS/Leah Millis)

Attorney General Jeff Sessions

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

White House Communications Director Hope Hicks reportedly announced her resignation after testifying about her job and being required to tell "white lies."

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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was fired by President Trump in March 2018.

(Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

White House aide Omarosa Manigault insists she resigned and was not fired from her role in December 2017.

(Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt resigned from his position on July 5, 2018 after a number of ethics scandals.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Sally Yates was fired from her post as acting attorney general when she refused to enforce President Trump's travel ban. 

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Rob Porter resigned as White House staff secretary in February 2018 amid abuse allegations made by his ex-wives.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

White House Counsel Don McGahn

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H.R. McMaster was replaced by John Bolton as national security advisor in March 2018.

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White House aide Kelly Sadler left her position in June 2018 after reportedly mocking Sen. John McCain.

(REUTERS/Leah Millis)

Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn announced his resignation in March 2018 after becoming a key architect of the 2017 tax overhaul 

(REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein)

Michael Flynn resigned as national security adviser in February after misleading Vice President Mike Pence about his interactions with Russian officials. 

(REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

President Trump announced David Shulkin was out as secretary of veterans affairs by sending a tweet announcing he had nominated his personal physican, Ronny Jackson, to replace him on March 28, 2018.

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Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in early May.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer resigned in July.

(June 20, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus resigned in July.

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Former advisor to President Donald Trump Steve Bannon resigned in August.

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Anthony Scaramucci, former White House communications director was fired in July after just 10 days on the job. 

(Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Trump fired Deputy Chief of Staff Katie Walsh amid White House leaks in April.

(REUTERS/Carlos Barria/Files)

Former Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price resigned in late September. 

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President Trump fired U.S. Attorney in Manhattan Preet Bharara in March.

(REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein)

Mike Dubke resigned as White House communications director in late May.

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Walter Shaub, former Director of the United States Office of Government Ethics in Washington, DC resigned in July.

(Photo Linda Davidson/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

White House deputy assistant Sebastian Gorka resigned in August 2017. 

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Rick Dearborn, White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Legislative Affairs, left the White House in December 2017.

(REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein)

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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.

Mattis joins a long list of former Trump administration senior figures who have either quit or been removed, some unceremoniously like Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who Trump fired via Twitter in March.

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.

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, along with other national security aides, was said to have opposed Trump's decision to remove U.S. troops from Syria. Many U.S. lawmakers have expressed concern about the decision and asked Trump to reconsider.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart and Steve Holland in Washington; writing by Tim Ahmann; editing by James Dalgleish and Grant McCool)

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