US defense secretary Chuck Hagel resigned on Monday, after only less than two years in office, becoming the first political casualty of the crises that have beset the country’s foreign policy this year and signaling a major post-election shakeup in President Barack Obama’s national security team, the Financial Times reported.
Hagel, the only Republican in Obama’s cabinet, is the first high-level official to leave the administration after the Democrats lost control of the Senate in midterm elections earlier this month, according to the newspaper. He will remain in office until a successor is confirmed.
Hagel, a decorated Vietnam War veteran and former senator who crossed party lines to endorse Obama in his 2008 presidential bid, was brought to the Pentagon to oversee the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan and build political support for deep cuts in the defense budgets.
It is widely believed that Hagel had privately pushed for the administration to do more to confront the regime of Bashar Hafez al-Assad in Syria as part of the campaign against the militant group Islamic State, the FT said. He has admitted that air strikes against the Islamist group could be boosting the position of the Assad forces in Syria.
Speaking in the White House, Obama described Hagel as an “exemplary” member of his cabinet who showed “class and integrity”.
Among the names being bruited about to replace Hagel is Michèle Flournoy, a former defense undersecretary during Obama’s first term, the report said.
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