Ret. Gen. Keane on Syria Withdrawal: President ‘Will Come to Regret This Decision’

• December 21, 2018 10:42 am


Retired Army Gen. Jack Keane said on Thursday that President Donald Trump will come to regret his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, if he doesn't reconsider the move.

"I don't discuss any conversations I may have with the president. All I can say is that I do hope he reconsiders," Keane told Fox News host Martha MacCallum. "I'm convinced that if he doesn't reconsider, he will come to regret it."

Mattis abruptly submitted his resignation letter on Thursday after meeting President Donald Trump at the White House to discuss the president's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria. Mattis tried to convince Trump to reverse his decision or at least let some troops remains, but Trump refused, according to reports. Trump tweeted that Mattis was "retiring" but Mattis' letter shows he resigned over policy disagreements with the president.

"I'm certainly saddened to see Jim Mattis departing, but I also understand. I think the factors that are contributing to the resignation – maybe not all of it – but certainly the decisions in Syria and Afghanistan," Keane said.

The Wall Street Journal and other outlets reported Wednesday that the Trump administration planned to pull U.S. troops out of northern Syria. There are currently 2,000 U.S. troops in the country that were there to train local forces in fighting ISIS. Trump has ordered military leaders to begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, according to reports.

"I did speak to Jim Mattis yesterday. We are both of one mind in our opposition to the decision to pull out forces of Syria and what its ramifications would be. I just want to say, Jim is a tremendous officer, a tremendous leader, and the quality of the service that he's provided to our country is certainly very, very significant. The American people are in his debt," Keane said.

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle shared their appreciation for Mattis' service while sharing their concern about the reasons for his departure. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) said she was "shaken" by Mattis' resignation.

"I'm not shaken in the least by it," Keane said. "I think we are going to miss Jim Mattis' leadership, to be sure, but I have said many times, I think President Trump has managed to surround himself with one of the strongest national security teams I've ever observed. Jim Mattis was a very important part of that, but he is not the only part of it. I'm confident the president will be able to find a successor who is very capable, will support the president's agenda, and also disagree with him strongly when necessary."

MacCallum asked the retired four-star general if he would accept becoming secretary of defense if Trump offered it to him.

"I have no plans to go back into public service," Keane answered.

"And that's final?" MacCallum asked.

"That's final," Keane said.

In his letter of resignation, Mattis stated that Trump has the right to have a secretary of defense that shares his views and then listed various issues he and Trump don't align on.

"My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues. We must do everything possible to advance an international order that is most conducive to our security, prosperity and values, and we are strengthened in this effort by the solidarity of our alliances," Mattis wrote. "Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position."

MacCallum asked if Mattis appeared to be upset at how Trump was treating American allies.

"That may be a point of difference; I don't know because I'm not in those discussions. I have believed that the president, in terms of what he was doing with NATO and trying to strengthen NATO and get everyone to  burden share properly, is the right course of action. I think going out and dealing with China and its malign and aggressive behavior in the Indo-Pacific, and working with our allies, are also the right decisions," Keane said.

Published under: James Mattis, President Trump, Syria