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USAID Chief Submits Resignation

FILE - Rajiv Shah, head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, speaks at the White House in Washington, Oct. 3, 2014.

Rajiv Shah, head of the United States' global development agency, announced Wednesday that he would resign in February.

In a statement, Shah, who was confirmed in 2009 as the 16th administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), said he was stepping down with mixed emotions, but he did not elaborate. A USAID spokesperson later said Shah is stepping down in mid-February to begin a new chapter in his life, and that he looks forward to spending more time with his family.

The announcement came as USAID contractor Alan Gross was released by Cuba after spending five years in prison. Gross was detained in December 2009 and later sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment for importing banned technology to Cuba.

U.S. lawmakers had criticized USAID for its programs in Cuba. An investigation by the Associated Press found that USAID had created a Twitter-like service meant to undermine the Cuban government. The agency also held a health workshop meant to recruit activists, AP said.

Shah, however, has been credited with advancing the U.S. global development agenda.

In a statement, Secretary of State John Kerry credited Shah with "transforming [the] institution into one that's more entrepreneurial, more modern and more nimble, while promoting resilient democracies and battling extreme poverty across the globe."

President Barack Obama said Shah "has embodied America’s finest values" by proactively advancing our development priorities, including ending global poverty, championing food security, promoting health and nutrition, expanding access to energy sources, and supporting political and economic reform in closed societies."