Trump Mulls Nominating 'China Hawk' James Webb as Pentagon Chief

Mattis announced his resignation days after Trump said he was planning to pull U.S. troops completely out of war-torn Syria, at first declaring Islamic State had been defeated and then asserting that the militant group should be handled by other countries in the region.

After a string of policy clashes over the past almost two years, Mr. Mattis resigned abruptly in the wake of Mr. Trump's order late last month to withdraw all 2,000 USA forces now deployed to Syria, and slash the 14,000 US forces in Afghanistan by half in the coming year, citing in part the strain Mr. Trump's policies have placed on America's allies.

Trump has also publicly feuded with various generals during his campaign and presidency. The former Marine Corps general was one of several national security aides who had persuaded Trump that an ongoing military presence there was critical to defeating the Islamic State and other US security interests.

Although on Dec 20, Trump released a glowing tweet announcing that Mattis was retiring "with distinction" at the end of February, he later changed his mind.

He said he told the generals, "Why don't you let them fight?"

But defense officials say he will represent some continuity from Mattis, since he helped craft the department's National Defense Strategy - which shifts the Pentagon's focus from counter-terrorism to great power competition with China and Russian Federation.

USA border force fires tear gas at migrants crossing from Mexico
The media agency further says that border agents fired three volleys of the gas as well as plastic pellets and pepper spray. Tuesday's use of tear gas comes a little more than a month after a similar incident along the border near Tijuana.

Acting Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan took part in the Cabinet meeting.

Shanahan, a former Boeing executive, had been Mattis' deputy and it was unclear how long he will remain in the role of acting secretary.

"I couldn't get other people to understand it", Trump said, apparently referring to Mattis, who argued for higher defense spending by North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies but did so in a nonconfrontational way. It emphasizes the importance of great power competition with Russian Federation and China, after America's many years of fighting insurgent wars in the Middle East.

Mattis announced on December 20 that he was stepping down, but would stay on the job until the end of February.

Aides say Shanahan, who's leading the Pentagon after the departure of Jim Mattis, struck the China theme at a meeting Wednesday with the department's top civilian leaders, including the heads of the military services.

Opposed to both the never-ending Middle Eastern conflict and the Iran nuclear deal, and hawkish on China, which he called "the greatest strategic threat that we have right now" during his short-lived primary run, Webb appears to be a good foreign policy fit for the Trump administration's new direction.

  • Sonia Alvarado