Ex-Pentagon chief Hagel: White House tried to 'destroy me'
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Former Defense Secretary Chuck HagelCharles (Chuck) Timothy HagelThe Afghan Air Force: When 'Buy American' goes wrong Overnight Defense: Navy medic killed after wounding 2 sailors in Maryland shooting | Dems push Biden for limits on military gear transferred to police | First day of talks on Iran deal 'constructive' 140 national security leaders call for 9/11-style panel to review Jan. 6 attack MORE says White House aides tried to personally "destroy" him.

In an interview with Foreign Policy, Hagel opened up about his tenure in the administration, discussing the uncertainty over Syria strategy and accusing the White House of micromanaging the Pentagon, echoing similar criticisms from predecessors Robert Gates and Leon Panetta. 


Tension between Hagel and other officials in President Obama's inner circle surfaced publicly last year, as the then-Defense chief and the White House disagreed over a number of policy initiatives.

Hagel and White House national security adviser Susan RiceSusan RiceSchumer vows to advance two-pronged infrastructure plan next month Biden emphasizes investment in police, communities to combat crime Democrats control the language of politics and culture — but for how long? MORE "frequently butted heads" over Syria policy and the Guantánamo Bay detention facility, according to the Foreign Policy report.

Hagel, who did not mention Rice by name, told the magazine that even after he agreed to leave the administration, some White House officials continued to anonymously knock him in the press.

White House aides criticized him in a November 2014 New York Times report, claiming he was mostly silent in meetings in the Situation Room and made a decision on Guantánamo that annoyed Rice.

“They already had my resignation, so what was the point of just continuing to try to destroy me?” Hagel told Foreign Policy.

“I don’t know what the purpose was," he said of what he views as backstabbing by White House aides. "To this day, I’m still mystified by that. But I move forward. I’m proud of my service."

Hagel told the magazine that there is "no question in my mind" that Obama's decision in 2013 to stand down after Syrian President Bashar Assad crossed his "red line" of using chemical weapons "hurt the credibility of the president's word."

Hagel, a former Republican senator, became Defense secretary in February 2013. His tenure was marked by Russia's incursion into Ukraine and the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), as well as issues within the Defense Department that included budget woes, several sexual assault cases and a deadly shooting at Washington Navy Yard. He was replaced by Ashton Carter in February of this year.

The White House declined to comment to Foreign Policy, but a senior administration official pushed back on the report characterized the policy-making process within the administration.