James Mattis is quickly becoming one of the most powerful Defense secretaries in recent memory, with access to President Trump that few can match.

Trump last week gave the former Marine Corps general full authority to decide the number of additional U.S. troops sent to Afghanistan, a move that comes even before a war strategy has been set. The president has given Mattis similar authority in Iraq and Syria.

And while former President Obama talked frequently to his top commanders overseeing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, Trump has instead chosen to speak only to Mattis and a handful of other Cabinet secretaries, according to a White House spokesman.

There is a “very, very close and good relationship” between Trump and Mattis, the spokesman said, describing frequent working dinners “almost on a weekly basis, sometimes more than once a week.”

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