US envoy Brett McGurk resigns over US withdrawal from Syria

By Elise Labott, CNN

(CNN) -- Brett McGurk, the special presidential envoy for the global coalition to counter ISIS, submitted his resignation Friday because of President Donald Trump's decision to pull US forces out of Syria, according to a senior administration official.

McGurk had previously said privately that he was going to leave the administration in February of next year.

A State Department official told CNN that McGurk had informed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday that he was resigning effective December 31.

CBS News was the first to report the news of McGurk's resignation, which came one day after Defense Secretary James Mattis resigned, also in part due to the Syria decision.

Going against the advice of his military and national security advisers, Trump on Wednesday announced the "full" and "rapid" withdrawal of US military from Syria, declaring that the US has defeated ISIS.

Sources familiar with the matter said McGurk was frustrated over Trump's sudden announcement, which was the opposite of the strategy he had just been briefing coalition partners on while in the region: to stay in Syria, fight ISIS and counter Iran.

According to the sources, McGurk viewed the Syria decision as reckless and couldn't defend it, let alone execute it. The sources said Mattis's resignation also played a part in the timing of McGurk's resignation.

Earlier this month, McGurk said US forces would remain in Syria even after ISIS was defeated.

"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 said during a State Department briefing on December 11.

He added, "It would be reckless if we were just to say, 'Well, the physical caliphate is defeated, so we can just leave now.' I think anyone who's looked at a conflict like this would agree with that."

McGurk was one of the few Obama administration holdovers to serve in the current administration. He also served under President George W. Bush.

When McGurk was initially going to leave the Trump administration in February, he was planning a move to a position at Stanford University, sources said.

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