Trump taps Marine General Mattis for defence secretary

President-elect surrounding himself with military figures, unnerving some observers


Afp December 04, 2016
US military commander James Mattis met Pakistan's top brass on Thursday. PHOTO: AFP

CINCINNATI: US President-elect Donald Trump said Thursday he has picked tough-talking retired general James Mattis to be his defence secretary.

“We are going to appoint ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis as our secretary of defence,” Trump told cheering supporters in Cincinnati, Ohio, referring by nickname to the retired four-star Marine general who headed the US Central Command, with authority over US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“He’s our best. They say he’s the closest thing to (World War II) general George Patton that we have,” Trump said, divulging his pick ahead of schedule after his transition team said there would be no more cabinet announcements this week.

Mattis will require both Senate confirmation and a special waiver of a law that bans uniformed military officers from serving as secretary of defence for seven years after leaving active duty.

At least one Democrat, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, already signaled she will oppose the waiver. “Civilian control of our military is a fundamental principle of American democracy,” the senator tweeted from New York.

Trump’s surrounding himself with military figures – he has picked retired lieutenant general Michael Flynn to be his national security advisor and is considering retired general David Petraeus for secretary of state – has unnerved some observers who point to America’s long tradition of civilian government.

Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, praised Mattis’ “knowledge, experience and leadership” but also expressed concerns about the precedent being set.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 3rd, 2016.

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