On Wednesday, President Donald Trump accused his former defense secretary, James Mattis, of mishandling the United States’ involvement in Afghanistan.
“What’s he done for me?” Trump reportedly told the White House press pool. “How had he done in Afghanistan? Not too good. As you know, President Obama fired him, and essentially so did I.”
Mattis tendered his resignation shortly after Trump announced a military withdrawal from Syria and troop reduction in Afghanistan last month. In his resignation letter, the defense secretary warned that the U.S. “cannot protect” its interests “without maintaining strong alliances.” Although Mattis was scheduled to officially depart from his role in late February, the president moved the final day up to January 1.
After lauding the defense secretary as ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis at campaign rallies, Trump saw his relationship with the retired four-star general deteriorate over questions of U.S. strategy in the Middle East.
“The soldiers on the ground could run things much better than you,” Trump told generals during a National Security Council meeting about the situation in Afghanistan. “They could do a much better job. I don’t know what the hell we’re doing.”
Mattis is also said to have served as a check on the president’s more aggressive ideas for the region, such as an assassination attempt on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad first reported in Bob Woodward’s Fear.
“When President Obama ingloriously fired Jim Mattis, I gave him a second chance. Some thought I shouldn’t, I thought I should,” tweeted Trump after Mattis resigned from the White House.