US Secretary of Defense James Mattis, has told US troops stationed outside of the country to “hold the line” amid the growing division and tension developing back home.
In comments contained in a video posted to a Facebook page called “US Army WTF Moments” that appeared to have been taken on a smartphone during a visit to Jordan, Turkey and Ukraine this week, most likely in Jordan, Mattis said: “Our country right now, it’s got problems we don’t have in the military. “You just hold the line until our country gets back to understanding and respecting each other and showing it.”
He also said, in remarks that were widely interpreted as possible veiled criticism of US President Donald Trump, that the US needed to “get the power of inspiration back”.
Mattis spoke before Trump on Friday followed up on his promise of a ban on transgender troops by directing the Pentagon to stop allowing transgender people to enlist and to stop paying for gender reassignment surgery except in cases that are already in progress to “protect the health of an individual”.
Mattis, who was among the defense chiefs reportedly surprised by Trump’s initial announcement of the ban via Twitter in July, was given wide discretion on how the directive is implemented regarding transgender people still serving. The former marine corps general is expected to consider “deployability” as the legal means to determine whether to separate service members.
It’s unclear where the video was taken, but Mattis traveled to Jordan, Turkey and Ukraine over the last week, meeting with top officials to discuss U.S. cooperation in the region. His comments likely came during a week of national turmoil following violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va.
Mattis’s remarks were made before President Trump signed a presidential memo ordering the Defense Department to stop allowing transgender people to enlist in the military. The memo also directs Mattis to further explore to how to handle transgender people currently serving in the armed forces.