Outgoing Defense Secretary Jim Mattis urges employees to stay focused

Mattis Says Farewell as Secretary of Defense

"So keep the faith in our country and hold fast, alongside our allies, aligned against our foes", the 68-year-old Mattis, a retired four-star Marine general, said in taking leave after more than 40 years in uniform and almost two years as Defense Secretary.

Mattis's farewell message urges all Pentagon employees, military and civilian, to "hold fast" in defence of the country.

Mattis, a scholar who frequently backs his views with historical anecdotes, also quoted a telegram US President Abraham Lincoln sent to General Ulysses Grant in February 1865, near the end of the American Civil War.

Last week Trump said he was replacing Mattis two months earlier than had been expected, a move officials said was driven by Trump's anger at Mattis' resignation letter and its rebuke of the president's foreign policy.

Just days before Trump announced the Syria withdrawal on Twitter, McGurk addressed a news conference in which he assured that the United States would not "just pick up and leave" Syria, warning of the risks that the Islamic State would return.

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Mattis resigned from the position of defense secretary in apparent protest of Trump's decision the day prior to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria - a move announced on December 19.

Outgoing U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is giving some final advice to troops and the Defense Department's civilian employees - maintain your faith in America and continue to stand by the country's allies.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan assumed command of USA armed forces on Tuesday by expressing loyalty to his boss, President Donald Trump, and praise for his former boss and predecessor, Jim Mattis. He will hand down his position to Shanahan later Monday around midnight in a phone call.

"Let nothing which is transpiring, change, hinder, or delay your military movements, or plans", Mr Mattis quoted Lincoln as saying. Trump said that Shanahan, a former Boeing Co. executive who did not serve in the military but worked closely with Mattis, might stay on as Pentagon chief "for a long time". Trump dismissed the concerns Mattis raised in his resignation letter December 23, saying in a tweet that "many of these same countries take advantage of their friendship with the United States".

When he announced Mattis as his choice to lead the Pentagon shortly after his November 2016 election victory, Trump referred to him by his nickname, "Mad Dog", suggesting he valued an unpredictable, intimidating approach to defense policy. During his Senate confirmation hearing in June 2017, he drew the ire of Republican Sen. Dick Cheney then was nominated and confirmed.

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