Trump announces Mattis leaving in February

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 4: U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) meets with retired General James Mattis on January 4, 2017 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. General Mattis is President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for Secretary of Defense. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)

(CNN) — Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will step down from his position early next year, President Donald Trump announced Thursday evening.

“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,” Trump tweeted.

Trump touted the “tremendous progress” that has been made during Mattis’ tenure at the helm of the Defense Department and thanked Mattis for his service.

Trump said a successor “will be named shortly.”

Trump announced Mattis’ exit a day after his plans to withdraw troops from Syria became public, a decision that Mattis and the President’s other top national security advisers opposed.

“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 in his letter.

“One core belief I have always held is that our strength as a nation is inextricably linked to the strength of our unique and comprehensive system of alliances and partnerships. While the US remains the indispensable nation in the free world, we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies,” he added.

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