Trump gives new Pentagon chief a taste of his worldview

Marsha Scott
January 7, 2019

Mattis handed in his resignation on December 20 after a series of policy disagreements with Trump, including the president's shock decision - announced on Twitter - to withdraw troops from Syria.

Currently, Patrick Shanahan, a former Boeing executive has been overlooking operations at the Pentagon as the acting US Secretary of Defence.

Trump said during the cabinet meeting that Islamic State militants should be combated by nations in the region, including U.S. adversary Iran.

Trump stunned observers by declaring victory over the Islamic State group in Syria and claiming the jihadists had been beaten "badly", even though they still number in the thousands.

He has since backpedaled and suggested more of a phased timeline for the withdrawal.

Various timelines have been floated, but Trump on Wednesday seemed vague, saying only that it would happen "over a period of time". The two have worked closely on the fiscal 2020 budget submission, which Shanahan has repeatedly pledged will be a "masterpiece" that puts the National Defense Strategy into motion.

"Acting Secretary Shanahan told the team to focus on the national defense strategy and to keep this effort moving forward", the USA defense official told reporters.

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A defense official added that Shanahan had told colleagues a major concern would be China.

The US accuses Beijing of a continuing pattern of military and economic espionage and has criticised China's ambitious "Belt and Road" trade and infrastructure initiative as being a form of economic coercion. It is now known whether Trump will nominate Shanahan as Mattis's successor or will select someone else.

Shanahan spent 31 years of his career with the Chicago-headquartered defense contractor before being appointed deputy secretary of defense in July 2017.

Shanahan stepped into the job after Mattis resigned following Trump's decision to pull USA troops from Syria, a move that went against the advice of his most senior military and diplomatic advisers.

As acting secretary, Shanahan, 56, has all the authority of a permanent secretary.

Shanahan has recused himself from participating in Boeing-related issues, a spokesman said. "I have the greatest confidence in his abilities to lead a phenomenally talented team while performing the duties as Deputy Secretary of Defense", Shanahan said in a statement.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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