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Week In The News: Mattis To Retire; Trump, Afghanistan And Syria; Government Spending Bill

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis welcomes Vice President Mike Pence to the Pentagon, Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis welcomes Vice President Mike Pence to the Pentagon, Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

With David Folkenflik

Defense Secretary James Mattis to retire at the end of February. President Trump decides to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria, and an announcement on Afghanistan may come, too. The president puts down a marker — on the wall.


Pierre Thomas, chief justice correspondent for ABC News. ( @PierreTABC)

Molly Ball, national political correspondent for Time. ( @mollyesque)

Jack Beatty, On Point news analyst. ( @JackBeattyNPR)

From The Reading List

NPR: “ Defense Secretary Mattis To Retire In February, Trump Says, Amid Syria Tension” — “Defense Secretary James Mattis, a living Marine Corps legend who made history by securing special permission from Congress to lead the Pentagon, is stepping down after a slow freeze-out by President Trump.

“The president made the announcement via Twitter Thursday evening.

“‘General Jim Mattis will be retiring, with distinction, at the end of February, after having served my Administration as Secretary of Defense for the past two years,’ Trump wrote.

“‘General Mattis was a great help to me in getting allies and other countries to pay their share of military obligations. A new Secretary of Defense will be named shortly. I greatly thank Jim for his service!,’ the president also wrote in a second tweet about the departure.”

CNN: “ Administration officials brace for Trump announcement on Afghanistan” — “Officials throughout the Trump administration are bracing themselves for the President to make an announcement about the US presence in Afghanistan, similar to his declaration Wednesday that the US will withdraw the military from Syria, informed administration sources tell CNN.

“The sources cautioned that the President has not yet made a final decision, but officials are concerned and convinced that he might do so, and soon.

“The US has about 14,000 troops in Afghanistan, most of which are present as part of a larger NATO-led mission to train, advise and assist Afghan forces. Any withdrawal would be complicated by the fact that the United States is part of NATO’s Resolute Support mission.”

New York Times: “ Putin Welcomes U.S. Withdrawal From Syria as ‘Correct’” — “President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia on Thursday hailed the decision by President Trump to withdraw United States forces from Syria, calling it ‘correct’ because the American troops were not needed.

“Mr. Putin’s praise came a day after Mr. Trump said he was ordering the withdrawal because the United States military had achieved its goal of defeating the Islamic State militant group in Syria. Given the unfinished business on the ground in Syria, however, the move was a surprise to many, including some senior presidential military and diplomatic advisers in Washington.

“The decision has been criticized, even among Republicans, as abandoning Kurdish allies in the face of a hostile Turkey and a still dangerous Islamic State, as well as leaving Syria open territory for the geopolitical ambitions of Russia and Iran.”

CNBC: “ Shutdown talks collapse: Trump won’t sign spending bill without wall money” — “President Donald Trump will not sign a Senate-passed spending bill, increasing the chances of a partial government shutdown.

“The Senate unanimously approved the legislation Wednesday night to keep the government funded through Feb. 8. With Trump’s support, it appeared set to breeze through the House before the midnight Friday deadline to fund seven agencies that make up about a quarter of the government.

“But Trump, who seeks $5 billion to build his proposed border wall, will refuse to sign the measure without his desired border security measures, House Speaker Paul Ryan said after a meeting with the president on Thursday. Trump’s decision throws more chaos into the late scramble to keep the government running through Christmas and into the new year.”

Allison Pohle produced this show for broadcast.

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