Career diplomat Dana Shell Smith will soon become Qatar’s new US ambassador, following a confirmation hearing from US Senate officials this week.
This will be Smith’s first time heading a diplomatic mission as ambassador, and she will replace Susan Ziadeh, who has served here since October 2011.
Smith is fluent in Arabic and has served in the UAE, Jordan, Israel, the Gaza Strip, Egypt and Taiwan during her time with the US State Department.
She most recently worked as principal deputy assistant secretary for public affairs.
Qatar is home to less than 10,000 Americans, but the Gulf state hosts the largest US airbase in the Middle East. And Shell’s appointment comes at a time when Qatar and the US are fostering closer political and economic ties.
When meeting with senators last month, she stressed the importance of national security, following the recent release of five Taliban fighters from Guantanamo Bay to Qatar’s custody as part of a prisoner exchange.
Other goals included increasing military ties with Qatar, developing cultural partnerships with entities like American universities in Education City and advocating for US companies.
Unlike dozens of other ambassador nominations that remain tied up in the Senate, Smith’s confirmation took only about two months. In contrast, the newly appointed ambassador to Kuwait, Douglas Silliman, took seven months.
With 47 appointments now awaiting confirmation, AFP reports US Secretary of State John Kerry as urging the government to work together and overcome party politics to “stop hobbling American diplomacy.”
Speaking from Kabul on Thursday, he continued:
“The world demands our engagement more than ever before. But we can’t lead if we are not present….We’re going without our strongest voice on the ground every day in more than 25 percent of the world.”
When asked when Smith will arrive in Qatar, a spokesman for the US Embassy in Doha declined to comment.