“Sen. Inhofe is still closely examining Mr. Kahl’s appointment and looks forward to hearing from him on these matters in the coming weeks, “said an Inhofe spokesperson.” past.”
The confirmation hearing is only the third for President Joe Biden’s Pentagon candidates, after Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Assistant Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks. Kahl served as Vice President Biden’s national security adviser from 2014 to 2017.
Kahl’s confirmation hearing has been delayed by several weeks as the Biden administration struggles to confirm Cabinet members. Biden’s choices are at the mercy of a 50-50 Senate, which means a Democratic defection could spell the end if all Republicans oppose a candidate. Neera Tanden’s appointment, for example, Biden’s choice to head the Office of Management and Budget, is in jeopardy after Democratic Senator Joe Manchin signaled his opposition to the choice.
Austin was easily confirmed two days after Biden’s inauguration in January, and the Senate approved Hicks in early February. But the armed services have not held another confirmation hearing since, and Biden has officially named no more senior Pentagon officials besides Kahl.
But there are signs of growing resistance to Kahl’s appointment to the ranks of the GOP. Besides Inhofe’s statement, Republicans privately criticized Kahl’s promotion of the deal with Iran, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which a GOP congressman says has helped fund terrorist activity across the Middle East. The staff member also noted that Kahl was working on Middle East policy during the Obama administration as the Islamic State gained power in Iraq.
Another person familiar with the talks said the GOP’s opposition to Kahl was political. Republicans “want a scalp and for some reason chose Colin,” the person said.
Kahl declined to comment.
During Kahl’s time in the White House, he played a key role in shaping the campaign against ISIS and was a staunch supporter of the Iran deal. He then warned that if President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal, as he did in 2018, Iran would step up nuclear activities and regional provocations.
As the Pentagon’s Middle East policy chief from 2009 to 2011, he oversaw a series of military deployments to the Gulf to counter Iranian aggression. In this position, Kahl also helped implement the withdrawal from Iraq and worked to strengthen defense ties with Israel. In the summer of 2009, he worked to endorse US support for Israel’s Iron Dome rocket defense system.
It is not clear how widespread Republican opposition to Kahl is within the Armed Services Committee and the Senate at large.
The position of Under Secretary for Policy is among the most influential in the Pentagon, shaping many strategic reviews and political debates, and is typically among the first positions a new administration holds.
The Senate confirmed former President Barack Obama’s first choice for political office, Michèle Flournoy, in early February 2009. The Trump administration, meanwhile, held the interim post for nearly its first year until that John Rood will be confirmed for the post in January. 2018.