Brett McGurk, the US special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, has quit over President Donald Trump’s decision to pull troops from Syria.
He brought his departure forward from February.
Before President Trump’s announcement he had insisted that the US would continue working against ISIS in Syria.
President Trump described Brett McGurk’s resignation as a “nothing event”.
The president tweeted: “Brett McGurk, who I do not know, was appointed by President Obama in 2015. Was supposed to leave in February but he just resigned prior to leaving. Grandstander? The Fake News is making such a big deal about this nothing event!”
Brett McGurk’s decision to quit follows the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on December 20.
General Jim Mattis had also opposed withdrawing troops from Syria as well as reducing the US presence in Afghanistan.
Brett McGurk, 45, is an experienced diplomat who was appointed to his current role in 2015 under the Obama administration.
In early December, the envoy told reporters: “We want to stay on the ground and make sure that stability can be maintained in these areas.”
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.”
In his resignation letter, seen by AP news agency, Brett McGurk said that ISIS militants in Syria were on the run but not yet defeated. He said that withdrawing US forces from Syria would create the conditions that gave rise to ISIS.
In an email to staff quoted by the New York Times, Brett McGurk said President Trump’s decision to pull out troops “came as a shock and was a complete reversal of policy”. It “left our coalition partners confused and our fighting partners bewildered”, he said.
Brett McGurk went on to say: “I ultimately concluded I could not carry out these new instructions and maintain my integrity.”