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Top US envoy to anti-ISIS coalition resigns

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Special envoy to anti-ISIS coalition resigns, citing US President's decision to leave Syria

WASHINGTON: Mr Brett McGurk, the US special envoy to the anti-Islamic State group coalition, has quit, a State Department official said on Saturday, capping a chaotic week that saw the departure of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and US President Donald Trump's stunning decision to pull troops from Syria.

Mr McGurk's resignation, effective Dec 31, comes after Mr Mattis quitting the Trump administration over disagreements with the US president, notably the Syria withdrawal.

Just last week, Mr McGurk said "nobody is declaring a mission accomplished" in the battle against ISIS - just days before the president blindsided politicians and allies with his announcement.

Mr Trump - who had postponed his holiday vacation as failed budget talks triggered a partial US government shutdown - again on Saturday said "ISIS is largely defeated".

"When I became President, ISIS was going wild," the president tweeted. "Now ISIS is largely defeated and other local countries, including Turkey, should be able to easily take care of whatever remains. We're coming home!"

Mr McGurk, 45, was set to leave his position in February, but felt he could no longer continue in the job after Mr Trump's declaration and on Friday informed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of his intention.

His conclusion mirrored that of Mr Mattis - a decorated Marine general often referred to as "the last adult in the room" - who quit after telling the president he could not go along with the Syria decision.

Mr McGurk has served as the US envoy since 2015.

Discussing the US role in Syria this month, he told journalists that "it would be reckless if we were just to say, 'Well, the physical caliphate is defeated, so we can just leave now.'"

Mr McGurk called Mr Trump's move to leave Syria "a shock" and "a complete reversal of policy", in an e-mail announcing his decision to colleagues.

"It left our coalition partners confused and our fighting partners bewildered," he said, according to The New York Times, which obtained the e-mail.

"I worked this week to help manage some of the fallout but ... I ultimately concluded that I could not carry out these new instructions and maintain my integrity."

The departures of Mr Mattis and now Mr McGurk follow those of national security adviser H.R. McMaster and White House chief of staff John Kelly - leaving Mr Trump, who has no political, diplomatic or military experience, alone. - AFP