Elissa Slotkin named top advisor to Pentagon’s Derek Chollet

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Iraq expert Elissa Slotkin has been named Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, effective immediately, defense sources tell Al-Monitor. Slotkin, most recently chief of staff for the Defense Department International Security Affairs bureau, will become the top advisor to Assistant Secretary of Defense for ISA Derek Chollet, in the team reporting to Under Secretary of Defense for Policy James Miller.

Colleagues describe Slotkin as a very strong choice, who brings substantial on the ground experience in Iraq and the Middle East to the Defense policy team. Slotkin spent nearly 20 months on the ground in Iraq over several deployments, both as an intelligence analyst and NSC staffer.

She was a key member of the status of forces agreement (SOFA) negotiating team in 2008 while working on the NSC staff. She stayed on in the Obama NSC for the first several months to help run the president’s strategic review on Iraq.

Slotkin served at the State Department from 2009 to 2011, working for first then-Deputy Secretary of State Jack Lew and subsequently Deputy Secretary Tom Nides, helping chart the civilian transition in Iraq.

Since 2011, Slotkin, who speaks Arabic and Hebrew, served as a Middle East advisor to then Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy, before becoming chief of staff in the ISA bureau.

“Elissa is extraordinarily talented and has proven herself to be a huge asset to nearly every agency working national security issues,” a former colleague told Al-Monitor. “This is a great move by the Pentagon.”