Defense Secretary James Mattis to retire

Trump says Defense Secretary James Mattis will be retiring at the end of February and a replacement will be named shortly.
3:31 | 12/21/18

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Transcript for Defense Secretary James Mattis to retire
Just a short time ago, we learned of the bombshell resignation of defense secretary James Mattis. He will leave in February. It comes just a day when president trump made that sudden announcement, ordering all U.S. Troops to be withdrawn from Syria, essentially saying the war against ISIS had been won. Secretary Mattis, a four-star marine general, the last of what the president called his generals to remain in the administration. There were reports of tension between the defense secretary and the president for quite some time, those differences had become more apparent in recent weeks. The defense secretary who now in his resignation letter says the president has a right to have a secretary of defense whose views are better aligned with his. ABC's chief global affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz leading us off. Reporter: The news tonight coming amid a growing backlash over president trump's decision to pull out of Syria and that video, where he said he was honoring American troops, including those who gave their lives. They're all coming back and they're coming back now. We won and that's the way we want it and that's the way they want it. Reporter: Some of the president's closest allies call it a disaster. Rejecting his claim that ISIS has been defeated. To say they're defeated is an overstatement and is fake news. It is not true. Reporter: And now, just one day later, defense secretary Jim Mattis handing in his resignation. Making clear he has deep disagreements with the commander in chief. In a letter to the president dated today, Mattis writes, "We cannot protect our interests without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies." Mattis adding, "We must be resolute and unambigious in our approach to those countries whose strategic interests are increasingly in tension with ours." He specifically cites China and Russia, telling trump, "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." President trump has hinted he and Mattis aren't always on the same page. I think he's sort of a Democrat, if you want to know the truth. But general Mattis is a good guy. We get along very well. He may leave, I mean, at some point, everybody leaves. Reporter: Tonight, the president tweeting, "A new secretary of defense will be named shortly. I greatly thank Jim for his service." Martha, we're both pouring over this letter from defense secretary Jim Mattis tonight, and in it, he says, "I have always held the belief that oir strength of a nation is ranked to the strength of our unique alliances and partners," doubling down on that point. You've known general Mattis for a long time. Resigning in this way was truly extraordinary. Reporter: Really astonishing, David. This is a man whose life has been about service and sacrifice. He cares deeply about our troops in this country. He had said he would never leave the post as long as he felt his service to the president was valued and productive. That no longer was the case. It seems clear that the situation was intolerable for Mattis and clear that this is in protest to trump picking out the troops from Syria. And trump is also considering pulling a substantial number of troops out of Afghanistan, as well. David? All right, Martha Raddatz, thank you. Also breaking at this hour, it appears there could very well

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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