Pentagon official who survived bruising confirmation battle to depart this summer
“We are grateful for his unwavering dedication and probing intellect. I have personally valued Colin’s leadership and counsel, and I have been continually impressed by his seriousness of purpose, his commitment to America’s national security, and his reverence for public service,” Austin said in a statement.
Kahl has been a key player in shaping U.S. defense policy on a myriad of issues, particularly in synchronizing security assistance for Ukraine. Under Kahl, DoD also rolled out its National Defense Strategy, which focused on the “pacing challenge” of China and the “acute threat” of Russia, according to the statement.
Sasha Baker, the deputy undersecretary for policy, will take over his job in an acting capacity, according to the DoD official.
NBC News first reported Kahl’s expected departure.
Kahl had been rumored as a potential candidate to replace Jake Sullivan as national security adviser, though Sullivan has not indicated he has any plans to step down in the near future. But Kahl would likely face a difficult rematch in the Senate before winning another confirmation for any position in the administration.
Kahl has been a lightning rod on Capitol Hill, beginning with his contentious Senate confirmation process two years ago.
All Republicans opposed Kahl for the top policy post. He caught heat from Republican senators over his past tweets criticizing GOP officials and Trump administration policies. Kahl apologized then for what he called “disrespectful” language on social media. He argued that he would approach the top policy job from a nonpartisan perspective.
Republicans also criticized his past policy positions on the Middle East as a member of the Obama administration, namely his support of the 2015 nuclear pact with Iran.
The Senate eventually confirmed Kahl in April 2021 in a tight 49-45 vote.
One critic, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), said the move is “wonderful news, if true.”
“If he’s leaving the administration, America’s a lot better off because of it,” he said.
Kahl has also been one of the administration’s top officials making the case against sending U.S.-made F-16 jets to Ukraine, which has been a point of contention between the Biden administration and lawmakers, both Democrats and Republicans.
Despite a plea from Kyiv for more advanced jets, Kahl has argued sending F-16s would take years and cost billions of dollars, while noting fighters aren’t Ukraine’s most immediate need.
Kahl previously served as national security adviser to then-Vice President Biden from October 2014 until January 2017, and has remained close to the president. In the Obama administration, he served as the Pentagon’s deputy assistant secretary for the Middle East from 2009 to 2011.