- Served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Middle East in the Obama administration
- Was also Deputy Assistant to the President and National Security Advisor to VP Biden during the Obama years
- Suported the Iran nuclear deal of 2015
- Was a leading promoter of the "Trump-Russia collusion" hoax
- Was appointed Under Secretary of Defense for Policy by President Biden
Colin Kahl was born in Michigan in 1971 and grew up in Northern California. He earned a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Michigan in 1993, and a Ph.D. in that same field from Columbia University in 2000.
Kahl was a National Security Fellow at Harvard University’s John M. Olin Institute for Strategic Studies from 1997-1998. He served as a Political Science Professor at the University of Minnesota from 2000 to 2005, and also in 2007.
During 2005-2006, Kahl worked for the Department of Defense (DoD) as a Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellow.
From 2007-2009, Kahl worked at the D.C.-based Center for a New American Security (CNAS), which, according to InfluenceWatch.org, is “a progressive think tank focused on foreign policy and national security issues” as well as “environmental security issues, including climate change.”
From 2007-2017, Kahl served as an Assistant Professor at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service.
Working for the Obama Administration
From 2009-2011, Kahl worked for the Obama administration as its Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Middle East. In this role, he was responsible for promoting the development of the administration’s policies toward nations like Israel, Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait, as well as the Palestinian Territories. Prior to leaving that position in 2011, Kahl received the Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service from then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
Kahl then rejoined CNAS from 2012-2014 before returning to the Obama administration in October 2014 to serve as: (a) Deputy Assistant to the President and (b) National Security Advisor to then-Vice President Joe Biden. He remained with the Obama administration through its final days in January 2017.
In 2011, Kahl received a grant from the Ploughshares Fund to advocate in favor of American “diplomatic engagement with Iran” — i.e., promotion of what would eventually become the Iran nuclear deal of 2015 — and against a U.S. military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
In an August 2012 op-ed in Foreign Policy magazine, Kahl praised President Obama’s call to: (a) push Israel’s borders back to the 1949 Armistice lines (with swaps); (b) accept the creation of a Palestinian state governed by terrorist organizations like Hamas; and (c) reject the notion of Jerusalem as Israel’s undisputed capital. In the same article, Kahl blamed the poor living conditions of Palestinians on the “economically debilitating effects of Israeli occupation” – rather than on the Palestinian leaders’ massive corruption and ongoing commitment to terrorism.
In the same 2012 op-ed, Kahl falsely claimed that President Obama had “defend[ed] Israel over the Gaza flotilla incident” involving the Free Gaza Movement.
Speaking in 2013 at the annual leadership conference of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) — a front group for the theocratic terrorist regime in Tehran — Kahl stated that the Obama administration had “the capacity to provide meaningful sanctions relief” to Iran. In a similar vein, he recommended the imposition of nothing more than minimal requirements on Iran vis-a-vis its nuclear weapons program — e.g., requiring Iran to limit its level of uranium enrichment to 5 percent but not to terminate its enrichment activities entirely — even though the Obama administration at that time was publicly stating that any nuclear agreement with Iran would necessarily have to mandate the cessation of all enrichment. Kahl also said that the U.S. should require Iran to: (a) reduce but not eliminate its existing uranium stockpiles; (b) limit its number of centrifuges but not dispense with them altogether; and (c) permit International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors to enter “certain” nuclear facilities — but not “all” of them.
Kahl opposed the bipartisan Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013,” which called for the imposition of sanctions against Iran and its terrorist proxies, and for the U.S. to support Israel in any conflict between the Jewish state and Iran. Characterizing the Act as “a diplomatic train wreck,” Kahl tweeted: “Proof that the new Iran sanctions legislation is a bad idea? Look at the Iraq war crowd supporting it.” He linked that same post to a Lobe Log post entitled “Neocons Who Brought You The Iraq War Endorse AIPAC’s Iran Bill,” which: (a) said that “AIPAC and the Israel lobby . . . are flogging as hard as they possibly can” to promote the Act; (b) accused Republican Senator Mark Kirk, one of the Act’s co=sponsors, of being a major beneficiary of “pro-Israel PAC’ money”; (c) described Democratic backers of the Act as mere “tokens”; and (d) reported approvingly that the “strong majority of Senate Democrats is still resisting pressure from AIPAC.”
When he served in the Obama administration from 2014-17 as Deputy Assistant to the President and National Security Advisor to then-Vice President Joe Biden, Kahl was part of the team that negotiated the Iran nuclear deal of 2015 – an accord with devastating implications for Israel’s national security. Indeed, Kahl — along with Ben Rhodes and Robert Malley — met more than 30 times with pro-Iran lobbyists, including the president of the National Iranian American Council, a front group for the theocratic terrorist regime in Tehran.
In March 2017, Kahl co-authored an op-ed which stated falsely that Iran had been in compliance with the terms of the 2015 nuclear agreement — when in fact Iran had been violating the deal from the start — violations that included the testing of ballistic missiles and a massive increase in the funding Iran provided to terror activities and terror proxies.
In 2018, Kahl seemed to imply that Israel had obtained information about Iran’s nuclear program as a mechanism by which to persuade the U.S. into war against Iran.
Contempt for President Trump & His Administration
In remarks he made via Twitter on March 11, 2017 Kahl called for “purging or marginalizing the ‘Axis of Ideologues’ in the West Wing” of the Trump White House in order to help promote what he described as “any hope of a sane foreign policy” under Trump. Deriding Trump affiliates most specifically for their agenda regarding “migration, ‘radical Islam,’ & trade,” Kahl singled out, by name, Trump’s then-chief strategist Steve Bannon, senior Trump adviser Stephen Miller, then-senior national security official Michael Anton, then-deputy assistant to the president Sebastian Gorka and then-deputy national security adviser K. T. McFarland.
In an April 2017 piece for Politico Magazine — titled “Like Middle East Wars? You’re Gonna Love President Trump” — Kahl warned of what he portrayed as the reckless foreign policy of the newly inaugurated Trump administration. In that piece, Kahl specifically likened Trump to former President George W. Bush: “Like his Republican predecessor, Trump has embraced rhetoric suggesting an existential civilizational clash between the United States and Islamic extremists.” Kahl also raised concerns over Trump’s departure from Obama-era Middle East policies: “Trump’s approach may kill more terrorists and achieve tactical gains. But its single-minded emphasis on military escalation carries with it real dangers that could produce strategic defeat.”
In a 2018 tweet, Kahl suggested that President Trump’s decision to name John Bolton as National Security Advisor was a sign that “we are going to die.”
In 2019, Kahl accused Republicans of “debas[ing] themselves at the altar of Trump — they are the party of ethnic cleansing.”
Promoting the False Narrative of Trump-Russia Collusion
After leaving the Pentagon with the outgoing Obama administration in 2017, Kahl was especially critical of the foreign policy of the incoming President Trump. Moreover, he expressed his firm belief in the Democrat-led narrative of Trump-Russia collusion to rig the presidential election of 2016 and subvert American democracy.
In their 2018 book Russian Roulette, journalists Michael Isikoff and David Corn said Kahl was part of a small inner circle of President Obama’s national security personnel working on issues related to Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. In dozens of tweets startuing in early 2017, Kahl defended what he said was the veracity and authenticity of the explosive claims which were made in the famous Steele dossier. Some examples of Kahl’s tweets regarding this matter:
- On March 2, 2017, Kahl tweeted: “One hypothesis is quid pro quo. We (Team Trump) go soft on Russia (cue platform as downpayment) & you hurt Hillary. Have no idea if true.”
- Kahl tweeted on March 12, 2017, that former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s admission that he had no evidence of Trump-Russia collusion in 2016 “doesn’t mean no evidence now.”
- On March 26, 2017, Kahl pointed to an “intriguing thread on the Trump-Russia-Rosneft connection mentioned in the Steele dossier.” Specifically, he cited a four dozen-tweet “MEGA-THREAD” by writer Seth Abramson about a “plot to sell America’s foreign policy for foreign oil and steal an election.”
- On March 28, 2017, Kahl tweeted: “Last night, Trump’s twitter account channeled anxiety over #RussiaGate. Perhaps it’s b/c the dossier is panning out.”
- On June 29, 2017, Kahl directed his followers to a New York Magazine piece and tweeted: “Stop Assuming Trump Is Innocent of Russian Collusion.”
- In July 2017, Kah; claimed that a recent statement by Donald Trump Jr. “confirms the plausibility of a core component of the Trump-Russia collusion allegations.”
- On September 6, 2017, Kahl tweeted that “Steele’s Trump-Russia Dossier holds up pretty well.”
- In a December 3, 2017 tweet, Kahl referenced “the very real possibility of Trump-Russia collusion” and “a clear pattern of behavior by both Team Trump and GOP leadership: conspiring to go easy on the Kremlin despite Russian interference in our election.”
- A few days later, Kahl added: “I would add one more damning thing we know: Team Trump and the GOP leadership also actively thwarted efforts during the election and transition to hold Russia accountable for it.”
- In January 2018, Kahl, in response to a GOP statement calling Russia collusion a “hoax,” said that “the available facts suggest otherwise.”
- On January 17, 2019, Kahl tweeted about “Team Trump’s shifting stories regarding the Trump campaign’s collusion with Russian interference.”
Professor at Stanford University
Nominated for Under Secretary of Defense for Policy by President Biden
Kahl was selected to join the Joe Biden–Kamala Harris presidential transition team during November 2020. On December 30, 2020, Joe Biden announced his intent to nominate Kahl as the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy (USDP). According to Defense News, the USDP serves as the “Pentagon’s No. 3 civilian, overseeing the Defense Department’s policy shop, including its strategy, nuclear deterrence, missile defense and international cooperation plans and policies.” Biden, Kamala Harris, and Secretary-designate Lloyd Austin all offered highly positive assessments of Kahl’s capabilities ass a prospective DoD leader.
Condemning the “Systemic Racism” and “Violent, Extremist Views” of Americans
Kahl’s nomination proved to be one of the most contentious personnel selections made by President Biden. During the intense Senate hearing process, Republicans expressed concern over Kahl’s past work on the Iran Nuclear Deal, his reservations about relocating the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and numerous controversial tweets he had posted during the Trump presidency. Also during the hearings, Kahl — who had never served in uniform — (a) said that he wanted to “stamp out systemic racism within the ranks of the military,” and (b) claimed that a substantial minority of those within the military held “violent, extremist views.”
Concerns About Climate Change
During another confirmation hearing exchange, Kahl indicated his support for radical DoD policies to address climate change: “Climate change represents another existential challenge — one that will increasingly shape the operational environment and contingencies the Department of Defense will face in the coming years.”
Confirmed by the Senate
Kahl was confirmed by the U.S. Senate by a 49-45 vote along party lines on April 27, 2021.
Persuading the Pentagon to Approve of Offshore Wind Farms
On May 25, 2021 — after the Pentagon had suddenly dropped its previous claim that offshore wind farms would interfere with U.S. military operations along the Pacific coastline — the Biden administration announced its plan to permit the development of such wind farms in a 399-square-mile area in U.S. waters off the coastline of central California. Kahl played a key role in persauding the Pentagon to drop its objection to wind farms. “The Defense Department applauds this step and looks forward to continued coordination to address the climate crisis,” Kahl said in a statement.
Defending the Biden Administration’s Handling of America’s 2021 Withdrawal from Afghanistan
Following the Biden administration’s widely criticized decision to pull American troops out of Afghanistan in the fall of 2021, Kahl, on October 26, warned of a potential attack from ISIS-K — the Afghanistan affiliate of ISIS: “I think the intelligence community currently assesses that both ISIS-K and Al-Qaeda have the intent to conduct external operations, including against the United States, but neither currently has the capability to do so….We could see ISIS-K generate that capability in somewhere between six or 12 months. I think the current assessments by the intelligence community is that Al-Qaeda would take a year or two to reconstitute that capability.”
At the same time, however, Kahl defended the Biden administration’s woefully inadequate vetting process for the tens of thousands of civilians whom U.S. military personnel had evacuated out of Kabul since August 2021. He also affirmed the administration’s stated commitment to rescuing Americans who remained stranded in Afghanistan: “We did not leave Americans behind. They continue to get out,” he testified. According to one report released by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in February 2022, however, some 9,000 Americans had in fact been left behind in Afghanistan amid the Biden administration’s withdrawal — a far cry from the 100-150 figure claimed by Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Promoting Initiatives to Combat Climate Change
In November 2021, Kahl backed the DoD’s increasing efforts to prioritize anti-climate-change initiatives. He even declared that climate change and extreme weather were potentially more dangerous than terrorism: “In 2019, Omaha, Nebraska was hammered with extreme weather and Offutt Air Force Base, which happens to be the headquarters of U.S. Strategic Command, found itself seven feet underwater. Just six months prior to that in late 2018, we had bases in North Carolina and Florida hammered by hurricanes, people having to leave bases and aircraft having to flee to higher to higher ground, it generated billions of dollars of damage to U.S. installations, and if you saw the wreckage on these bases, frankly, no terrorist organization has done that amount of damage in the past few years to American installations in the United States. But climate change has. So if we do not take this issue seriously as a department, we are not tackling the current security environment.”
 In 2010, the Free Gaza Movement (FGM) collaborated with the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedom and Humanitarian Relief, a Turkish group bearing the acronym IHH, to organize a six-ship flotilla bound for Gaza. (Ostensibly a peace and human-rights organization, IHH has longstanding ties to Hamas, al Qaeda, and the Muslim Brotherhood.) As the flotilla, which began its journey on May 30, headed toward Gaza, Israel issued numerous notifications indicating that the ships would not be permitted to dock without first submitting to an inspection of their cargoes. But in the early morning hours of May 31, after the boat crews had repeatedly refused to comply, Israeli commandos rappelled from helicopters onto the decks of the vessels and intercepted the flotilla. The IHH-affiliated activists on one of the ships (the Mavi Marmara) responded violently, attacking the commandos with knives, clubs, steel pipes, and stun grenades. Some of the activists were armed with guns. In the melee that ensued, nine FGM/IHH activists were killed and seven Israeli soldiers were wounded. Soon after the foregoing conflict, the Israeli government revealed that among the 600-plus people aboard the Mavi Marmara were senior members of the Muslim Brotherhood and some 40 Turkish jihadis who had instigated the violence. President Obama, however, pressured Israel to apologize to Turkey following the incident, and to pay millions of dollars in “compensation” to the Turkish (IHH) terrorists who were aboard the Mavi Marmara.