James Mattis retiring as defense secretary

/ CBS News

President Trump announced on Thursday that Defense Secretary James Mattis will retire "with distinction" at the end of February, soon after Mr. Trump announced he would order the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria.

"During Jim's tenure, tremendous progress has been made, especially with respect to the purchase of new fighting equipment," Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter. "General Mattis was a great help to me in getting allies and other countries to pay their share of military obligations. A new Secretary of Defense will be named shortly. I greatly thank Jim for his service!"

News of Mattis' impending departure comes the day after Mr. Trump's sudden announcement about Syria, a decision he made without consulting security officials in his administration.

In a hard copy of Mattis' resignation letter acquired by CBS News' David Martin, the defense secretary said he is stepping down because of the differences in viewpoints with Mr. Trump.

"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," Mattis wrote.

Mr. Trump's tweet comes amid negotiations to pass a partial government funding bill.

First published on December 20, 2018

© 2018 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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