President Barack Obama made his statement on the resignation of Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel from the White House on Monday morning.
Hagel and Vice President Joe Biden stood alongside Obama during the remarks.
The president began by sharing an anecdote form Hagel’s visit to troops in Korea “about a year ago.” During that trip, Obama said Hagel was asked about his favourite college football team by one of the soldiers in attendance. Obama went on to say a soldier “might have been reluctant” to ask an earlier secretary of defence a similar question. The president said this was an example of how Hagel’s leadership at the Pentagon was different.
“Chuck Hagel has been no ordinary secretary of defence,” Obama said.
Obama went on to explain he feels Hagel was a unique leader for the military because he was the first former enlisted soldier to hold the position. Hagel was a Vietnam veteran who earned two Purple Hearts. Obama said Hagel understood the challenges soldiers face “like few others.”
“He sees himself in them and they see themselves in him,” said Obama.
Hagel, a former senator who was sworn in last February, is reportedly stepping down due to pressure stemming from dissatisfaction with the Obama administration’s handling of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa and the military operations against the jihadist group Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL). However, a senior administration official who spoke to Business Insider characterised Hagel’s departure as a part of “the natural post-midterms transition time.” The official said Hagel’s successor would be announced “in short order.”
Obama described Hagel as an “exemplary” secretary of defence. He said it was Hagel’s decision to step down and characterised it as a decision made after overseeing the Pentagon through a department of “transition.”
“On behalf of a grateful nation, thank you Chuck,” Obama said.
This post will be continuously updated with details from Obama’s remarks.
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