The top U.S. envoy to the global coalition to fight ISIS has decided to accelerate his planned resignation in protest. Brett McGurk was already planning to retire in February but decided to leave by the end of the year following President Donald Trump’s abrupt move to withdraw troops out of Syria. The resignation comes shortly after Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis decided to step down for the same reason.
“The recent decision by the president came as a shock and was a complete reversal of policy that was articulated to us,” McGurk said in an email to his colleagues. “It left our coalition partners confused and our fighting partners bewildered.” Although he tried to contain the fallout from the decision, “I ultimately concluded that I could not carry out these new instructions and maintain my integrity,” he said.
In his resignation letter, McGurk, who has been in his post since 2015, said that while ISIS is on the run, it would be a mistake to think it had already been defeated. And prematurely pulling out U.S. troops would only create the type of conditions that gave rise to ISIS in the first place. McGurk may have also felt a personal sting with Trump’s sudden decision because he had publicly all but guaranteed U.S. troops wouldn’t be going anywhere in the near future. “I think it’s fair to say Americans will remain on the ground after the physical defeat of the caliphate, until we have the pieces in place to ensure that that defeat is enduring,” he told reporters on Dec. 11. McGurk presented his resignation, which becomes effective Dec. 31, to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday.
On Saturday, Trump continued to insist that his abrupt decision to pull out troops from Syria was the right call. “When I became President, ISIS was going wild,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Now ISIS is largely defeated and other local countries, including Turkey, should be able to easily take care of whatever remains. We’re coming home!”