US President Donald Trump shakes hands with US Army Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster (L) as his national security adviser at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, on February 20, 2017. / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM
Source: McMaster says advising Trump is tough
00:53 - Source: CNN

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Harvey, a long-time intelligence officer, was appointed by former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn

The NSC did not provide a specific reason for Harvey's removal

Washington CNN  — 

Retired Col. Derek Harvey, one of President Donald Trump’s top advisers on the National Security Council, was removed from his post on Thursday, marking the latest staffing shake-up in an administration plagued by reports of internal conflict between competing ideological factions.

Harvey, a long-time intelligence officer, was appointed by former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn during his short tenure and continued to serve as the council’s senior director for the Middle East under H.R. McMaster after Flynn was forced to resign earlier this year.

The firing of Harvey follows McMaster’s removal of another Flynn holdover, former deputy national security adviser K.T. McFarland, from the NSC in April.

McFarland, the one-time top deputy to Flynn, accepted the US ambassadorship to Singapore in April – a move that was publicly cast by officials as a promotion despite common knowledge inside the NSC that her hold on the deputy job was tenuous at the time.

The NSC did not provide a specific reason for Harvey’s removal but offered a statement confirming that he would no longer serve in his current role and thanking him for his service.

“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,” a statement from a NSC spokesperson said.

“The administration is working with Colonel Harvey to identify positions in which his background and expertise can be best utilized.”

Harvey also issued his own statement announcing his departure from the NSC “to take advantage of a new opportunity to continue serving our President and the United States of America in an important capacity.”

“Since January, I have had the special honor to serve as the Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Middle East Affairs in the National Security Council,” the statement said.

“This has been work of vital importance to our country, and my departure comes with mixed emotions. In addition to the criticality of the mission, the people I have worked with in the NSC and the White House make this a tough decision,” Harvey said. “I am excited about the opportunities to advance American interests in the Middle East under President Trump’s leadership, and I look forward to shouldering greater responsibilities in support of the President.”

But while Harvey’s future in the administration remains unclear, a spokesperson for the NSC confirmed that his ouster was not the result of a mutual decision, telling reporters it was fair to say he was “removed.”

An Arabic-speaking intelligence officer with a Ph.D, Harvey served as the head of the US military cell examining the insurgency in Iraq in 2003.

It was Harvey who first laid out for President George W. Bush at the White House in the winter of 2004 the real scale and nature of the Sunni insurgency at a time when the Bush administration wouldn’t use the word “insurgency” because it implied they were facing something much more serious than the “dead-enders” Vice President Dick Cheney was then publicly talking about.

CNN’s Allison Malloy and Peter Bergen contributed to this report