By Mick Krever, CNN
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s decision to resign on Monday was not because of policy disagreements over Iraq, where the U.S. is waging a war against ISIS, Pentagon Spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby insisted in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.
“The Secretary’s decision to resign has nothing to do with Iraq policy,” he said.
Some have speculated that Hagel and U.S. President Barack Obama disagreed over ISIS policy.
The President at one point referred to ISIS as “JV,” or junior varsity; he would speak about the group more seriously as the group gained territory, but the difference in Hagel’s tone over the group – that it was “beyond anything that we've seen” – nonetheless raised eyebrows.
The idea of tensions between the White House and the Pentagon was further raised when Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he would recommend the use of troops on the ground if he deemed it necessary – despite President Obama insisting that was not something he would order.
“None of us foresee any major changes to the strategy, or in fact to the policy of not putting troops in a combat role on the ground in Iraq,” Kirby said. “There’s been no change, and I really don’t see that coming anytime soon.”
The spokesman also insisted that Hagel “was not pushed out.”
“This was a mutual decision that he and the president arrived at after a series of conversations.”
“And as for civil-military tensions, the relationship between the Pentagon and the White House remains very, very solid and productive.”
“And, you know, of course there are disagreements over different things [from] time to time, but I can tell you that everybody devoted to the same national security goals and objectives, and everybody is focused on moving out on those.”