Washington, Nov 26: Former Pentagon No.2 Ashton Carter has emerged as the frontrunner to replace Chuck Hagel as the US defense secretary and take charge of the military campaign against the Islamic State (IS) radical group.
Immediately after Hagel's resignation was officially announced Monday by President Barak Obama, the names of Carter and Michele Flournoy, another former high official at the Pentagon, began doing the rounds as his replacement.
Flournoy late Monday communicated to Obama her inability to join the government due to family reasons, according to a letter reported by Foreign Policy magazine.
Democratic Senator Jack Reed was another candidate for the post, but a spokesperson clarified that the lawmaker did not wish to head any post in the government.
The names of Carter and Flournoy were considered before Obama appointed Hagel as the head of the Pentagon in January 2013, replacing Leon Panetta who decided to retire.
Carter, 60, served as the deputy defence secretary between October 2011 and December 2013, and resigned citing personal reasons.
As recalled Monday by Obama, Hagel joined the Pentagon in February 2013, with the job of pulling out US troops from Afghanistan, a task which is to be completed by the end of this year, and seeing to defense budget cuts.
However, in the wake of the Ukraine crisis with Russia and the rise of the IS, it is believed that Hagel's leadership was put to the test and revealed his inability to connect with Obama's closest advisors.
In the prevailing war against the jihadis, with airstrikes in Iraq and Syria by a US-led international coalition, Obama sought a different sort of leadership, leading to Hagel resigning from his post, according to the White House.
In recent months, differences between Hagel and the Obama administration emerged with the former questioning US policies in Syria, and the latter's dissatisfaction with Hagel regarding Guantanamo Bay as Obama wanted fewer prisoners at prison.
"This decision does not come easily to him, but I consider myself extraordinarily lucky to have had him by my side for two years," the president said Monday, referring to the outgoing secretary.