July 27, 2017 / 5:22 PM / 2 years ago

Middle East adviser departs Trump's National Security Council

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a press conference with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri (not pictured) in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., July 25, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A top adviser on Middle East issues to U.S. President Donald Trump left the National Security Council on Thursday as the White House grapples with internal divisions as well as major policy issues involving Syria, Iran and Iraq.

The Weekly Standard magazine was first to report the departure of Derek Harvey, a retired Army colonel and intelligence officer who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The magazine said Harvey was fired.

Michael Anton, a spokesman for NSC Director H.R. McMaster, confirmed Harvey’s departure. “General McMaster greatly appreciates Derek Harvey’s service to his country as a career Army officer, where he served his country bravely in the field and played a crucial role in the successful surge in Iraq, and also for his service on Capitol Hill and in the Trump administration,” Anton said.

“The administration is working with Colonel Harvey to identify positions in which his background and expertise can be best utilized,” Anton said in a statement, providing no further details.

In a separate statement, Harvey said he left the NSC to “take advantage of a new opportunity to continue serving” Trump, but he did not indicate that he was offered any particular post.

Harvey praised the top administration officials and the NSC staffers with whom he worked, and added that he looked “forward to shouldering greater responsibilities in support of the president.”

Reporting by Steve Holland; writing by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Dan Grebler

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