Top Pentagon official for Middle East policy expected to step down

US Defence Department leadership was in turmoil for months owing to a political spat

The departures from the Pentagon come at a difficult time for the Defence Department's senior leadership. Photo: Reuters
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Dana Stroul, the US deputy assistant secretary of defence for the Middle East, has indicated her intent to leave the Pentagon, a US defence official told The National.

Ms Stroul, the top official for US policy in the region, has not yet made an announcement.

Between 2013 and 2018, Ms Stroul served as a senior professional staff member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where she covered the Middle East and North Africa, and Turkey.

“Since she took on this role [she] has been really quite essential to US defence policy in the Middle East,” said Jonathan Lord, senior fellow and director of the Middle East security programme at the Centre for a New America Security.

Mr Lord described Ms Stroul's portfolio as “one of the most taxing jobs in the Pentagon for a civilian” and one that has only gotten more difficult following the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon has announced the departure of Dr Mara Karlin, who served in several roles including performing the duties of deputy undersecretary of defence for policy, to pursue a job in academia.

“During her tenure, she managed the writing and ongoing implementation of the National Defence Strategy, a pivotal document in guiding the department, particularly in linking strategy to resources, even amid evolving global crises,” the Pentagon said.

Mr Lord described Ms Karlin as a “brilliant titan of policy” and another significant loss.

The departures come at a difficult time for the Pentagon's senior leadership.

For months, Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville blocked the promotions of hundreds of top officers over a dispute involving the Defence Department's abortion policy. He has now lifted most of those blocks.

“I think it's a fairly irresponsible way to govern the country because it really hurts our ability broadly, to execute our national security objectives,” Mr Lord told The National.

Updated: December 12, 2023, 7:00 PM