Paul McHale, a top civilian Pentagon official and a former congressman, has been recalled to active duty as a Marine reservist and will be sent to Afghanistan, The Associated Press has learned.

This is the second time he has left a political position to return to the warfront — having volunteered for the first Gulf War in 1991.

McHale, 56, the assistant defense secretary for homeland defense, will head overseas by the end of the year, according to a Defense Department official who requested anonymity because the time and location of the deployment had not been released publicly.

Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke confirmed on Thursday that McHale would be taking a leave of absence to go back on active duty.

"Like many other Marine reservists, Secretary McHale has been recalled to active duty and will serve overseas," said Krenke.

She said he is expected to return to his civilian Pentagon job after he completes his service.

A native of Bethlehem, Pa., McHale joined the Marines after his college graduation. He was commissioned in 1972 and spent two years on active duty, including service as a rifle platoon leader in Okinawa and the Philippines. He now is a colonel.

He served five terms in the Pennsylvania state House of Representatives, but resigned in 1991 to volunteer for duty during Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm, after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.

He later served three terms in Congress, before taking the homeland defense job at the Pentagon in February 2003. The post was created after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.