President Obama tapped State Department official Brett McGurk Friday as special envoy to the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State, replacing the retiring Gen. John Allen.
Mr. McGurk has been serving as Gen. Allen’s deputy in the campaign against the extremist group in Iraq and in Syria. With the Russian military’s entry into Syria’s civil war last month, the job has become even more complex.
“Brett has my full support as he continues broadening and deepening our coalition efforts to degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State, Mr. Obama said in a statement.
The president said he’s asked Mr. McGurk “to strengthen our partnership with Iraq and work intensively with regional partners to bring an end to the civil war in Syria, which continues to fuel [the Islamic State] and other extremist groups.”
Gen. Allen, a Marine who was chosen for the job in September 2014, had encountered friction with the Pentagon in the role. Mr. Obama said he carried out the job “with tremendous ability and courage.”
Mr. Obama had nominated Mr. McGurk to become U.S. ambassador to Iraq in 2012. But Mr. McGurk withdrew his name after racy emails surfaced between him and a Wall Street journal reporter in Baghdad.
He was also involved in the failed effort to reach a status-of-forces agreement with Iraq in 2011 that would have kept some U.S. troops in the country. When Iraqi leaders didn’t agree to grant U.S. troops immunity from prosecution, Mr. Obama withdrew all forces.