Hagel Says White House Disagreed With His Slow Pace of Releases of Guantanamo Detainees

Ground troops in Iraq "could be necessary," says Defense secretary.

"Not everyone at the White House has agreed with how I’ve handled some of this,” Hagel told CNN in an interview aired Friday.

“I have made it very clear that I will not certify -- sign anything -- to release a detainee as long as I’m secretary of Defense unless I am convinced that it is in the best interest of this country. And a substantial mitigation of risk can be verified, as closely as we can verify it.”

The Defense secretary affirmed Friday that the exchange for Bergdahl was the right call. "Absolutely, it was the right decision," said Hagel.

“I have the responsibility and I play my own game here,” Hagel explained. "Because by law I am the one official in government charged with certification of releasing detainees. I take that responsibility very seriously.”

He also acknowledged that the idea of White House pressure over the pace of releases did not worry him.

“I’ve been in this town a long time,” said Hagel. “And there’s pressure all the time in every job, they come from a lot of different directions. If you’re not prepared to deal with pressure every day, in the job you’re in -- coming from a lot of different directions -- then you shouldn’t be in the job.”

“It could be necessary," Hagel said. "It could be, but I’m not willing to say that it will be necessary.”

He stressed that "whether we get there or not, I don’t know whether that’s something our military commanders recommend into the future, I don’t know."

But Hagel said that so far, that has not happened.