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The only Republican in Barack Obama's national security team is resigning

Chuck Hagel is stepping down as Defence Secretary.

Chuck Hagel submitted his resignation letter to President Obama earlier
Chuck Hagel submitted his resignation letter to President Obama earlier
Image: AP/Press Association Images

Updated 4.35pm 

CHUCK HAGEL, THE US Defence Secretary, is to resign, US President Barack Obama has confirmed.

Hagel’s resignation was reported in the hours prior to a press conference in the White House a short time ago. The decision to step down follows pressure over the country’s response to the growing threat of Islamic State.

Although Hagel has formally resigned his position there are widespread reports that he was essentially pushed from his role in the wake of recent criticisms.

Speaking to the media a short time ago, Obama said that Hagel had concluded it is “an appropriate time” for him to step down.

He described Hagel as “an exemplary defence secretary” and steady hand for strategy and budget. He said he will always be grateful that Hagel has always “given it to me straight.”

Hagel is a Republican who served as senator from Nebraska and became a critic of US involvement in Iraq.

He told reporters: “It has been the greatest privilege of my life, to lead and most important to serve the men and women of the defence department and support their families.”

Obama nominated him to succeed Leon Panetta as Defence Secretary at the start of his second term and he is the only Republican in the administration’s national security team.

Hagel’s departure makes the Vietnam War veteran the first senior Obama advisor to leave the administration following the sweeping losses to Republicans in the mid-term elections earlier this month.

AP reports that Obama’s national security team has been battered by multiple foreign policy crises, include the rise of the Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.

It’s reported that Hagel submitted his resignation letter to Obama this morning and the president accepted it. Hagel has agreed to remain in office until his successor is confirmed by the Senate.

According to officials briefing the New York Times, Obama’s decision to remove the 68-year-old is a recognition “that the threat from the Islamic State would require a different kind of skills than those that Mr. Hagel was brought on to employ”.

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Hugh O'Connell

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