U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has resigned from his position leaving President Obama to face the challenges of national security without his right hand man.
The US is currently working to fight national security threats posed in Afghanistan as well as Islamic State in both Iraq and Syria.
Hagel leaving represents the first major change to Obama’s Cabinet since his Democrats were routed in midterm elections three weeks ago.
The Republicans, who now control both houses of Congress, are looking for a new approach from the White house and will be well pleased with the instability being shown around the President.
Chuck Hagel took up the position of Defense Secretary less than two years ago as Obama worked to push through the winding down of operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
According to Reuters, Chuck Hagel had privately expressed frustration to colleagues at the administration’s strategy toward Iraq and Syria and at his lack of influence over the decision-making process.
Officially Chuck Hagel’s personal issues with his position were not the cause of his leaving. It has been stated by the government that his decision to leave was a mutual one, however Reuters claims “There’s no question he was fired,” according to one source with knowledge of the matter.
It is known that Hagel raised questions about Obama’s strategy toward Syria in an internal policy memo that leaked this autumn. In it the memo said that the president’s policy was in jeopardy due to its failure to clarify its intentions toward Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
According to Reuters, House Republican Speaker John Boehner said the change at the Pentagon “must be part of a larger re-thinking of our strategy to confront the threats we face abroad, especially the threat posed by the rise of ISIL (Islamic State).”
Chuck Hagel will stay on in his role as Defense Secretary until his replacement is confirmed by the Senate.
President Obama praised Hagel for his work during a White House event called to announce his departure, saying he had always been candid with his advice and had “always given it to me straight”.
Now comes the question of who will replace Hagel in this top position. According to Reuters, top potential candidates to replace Hagel include Michele Flournoy, a former under secretary of defense, and Ashton Carter, a former deputy secretary of defense, who were rumoured to be contenders for Hagel’s job before he was named.
Defense analyst Loren Thompson told Reuters that Obama had seen Hagel as someone who could build bridges to the Republican Party, particularly in disputes over the massive defense budget, but Hagel’s ties were not in fact strong to begin with.