Mattis sends last Christmas message to troops before resigning

US envoy to anti-IS coalition resigns after Trump's Syria decision

When Trump chose to pull USA troops out of Syria, he reportedly ignored the advice of his closest advisers, including Mattis, who had warned the president that ISIS still was still active in the region and that a US withdrawal would ignite chaos.

Mattis, 68, had said he would leave at the end of February to allow a smooth transition for the next chief of the world's top military power, but Trump - who was reportedly upset over media coverage of the stinging resignation letter submitted by the defense secretary - moved up the timetable.

Although Mattis was expected to make his departure from the administration by the end of February, Trump indicated on Sunday that he would be pushed out early, tweeting Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan will become the acting defense secretary on January 1.

"And why must Secretary Mattis leave early?" Trump told aides that he especially resented the narrative of Mattis as a manager of Trump who served as a human guardrail against the president's impulses, the official said.

Outgoing Defense Secretary James Mattis wished a Merry Christmas "to all you lads and lasses holding the line in 2018" in one of his final messages to America's troops before his departure from the Trump administration.

"The execute order for Syria has been signed", a U.S. military spokesperson told Agence France-Presse on Sunday in response to a query, without providing further details.

Another defence official, who is close to Mattis and spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation, said: "I think it's fair to say that there is a lot of uncertainty about this week".

US President Donald Trump has declared the militant group "largely defeated", and made the surprise decision to bring US forces home - a move that many US politicians and worldwide allies fear is premature and would further destabilise the already devastated region.

Turkish coordination with US in Syria not limited to military coordination
But the extremists are largely confined to a remote desert enclave hundreds of miles (kilometres) to the southeast of Manbij. The town of Manbij has been one area of friction between the U.S. and Turkey, which has vowed to clear the area of the YPG.

"It's all one big one story and that story is about the fitness or unfitness of Donald Trump to be president of the United States", Bernstein said.

Mattis, a retired Marine Corps general, had been expected to retain his position as Pentagon chief through February.

Former President Barack Obama fired Mattis as head of U.S. Central Command in 2013 in large part because of Mattis' increasingly hawkish posture toward Iran. "Allies are very important-but not when they take advantage of U.S.".

Names that are quietly beginning to surface include some of the civilian leaders of the military services such as Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Army Secretary Mark Esper, an acknowledgement that someone who has already undergone Senate confirmation is considered a safer bet.

As Mattis played an important role in embodying Trump's strategic concept and buffering the president's strategic impulse, Zuo said, his departure would make it easier for Trump to further "rip off" his allies.

Shanahan also has overseen the Pentagon's audit, its development of a new missile defence policy that still has not been released and a fledgling effort to reduce waste in military expenditures.

The White House's abrupt decision to order the full departure of USA ground forces in Syria on Wednesday provoked a flurry of criticism from Republicans and Democrats. Sen.

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