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McMaster known to speak his mind

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Both Republicans and Democrats praise new national security adviser

WEST PALM BEACH, WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump yesterday named Lieutenant-General Herbert Raymond McMaster as his new national security adviser, choosing a military officer known for speaking his mind and challenging his superiors.

Gen McMaster is a highly regarded military tactician and strategic thinker, but his selection surprised some observers who wondered how the officer, whose army career stalled at times for his questioning of authority, would deal with a White House that has not welcomed criticism.

"He is highly respected by everybody in the military and we're very honoured to have him," Mr Trump said at West Palm Beach, where he spent the weekend.

"He's a man of tremendous talent and tremendous experience."

One subject on which Mr Trump and Gen McMaster could soon differ on is Russia.

Gen McMaster shares the consensus view among the US national security establishment that Russia is a threat and an antagonist to the US, while the man whom he is replacing, retired Lieutenant-General Michael Flynn, appeared to view it more as a potential geopolitical partner.

Mr Trump has in the past expressed a willingness to engage with Russia more than his predecessor, Mr Barack Obama.

Mr Flynn was fired as national security adviser on Feb 13 after reports emerged that he had misled Vice-president Mike Pence about speaking to Russia's ambassador about US sanctions before Mr Trump's inauguration.

The ouster, coming so early in Mr Trump's administration, was another upset for a White House that has been hit by miscues, including the controversial roll-out of a travel ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries, since the Republican president took office on Jan 20.

The national security adviser is an independent aide to the president and does not require confirmation by the US Senate.

He has broad influence over foreign policy and attends National Security Council meetings along with the heads of the State Department, the Department of Defense and key security agencies.

Republican Senator John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a frequent Trump critic, praised Gen McMaster as an "outstanding" choice.

"I give President Trump great credit for this decision," he said in a statement.

A former US ambassador to Russia under Obama, Mr Michael McFaul, a Democrat, praised Gen McMaster on Twitter as "terrific" and said the 54-year-old "will not be afraid to question his boss".

McMaster, 54, is a West Point graduate with a Ph.D in US history. He was listed as one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people in 2014, partly because of his willingness to buck the system.

A combat veteran, he gained renown in the first Gulf War - and was awarded a Silver Star - after he commanded a small troop of the US 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment that destroyed a much larger Iraqi Republican Guard force in 1991.

As one fellow officer put it, referring to Trump's inner circle of aides, the Trump White House "has its own Republican Guard, which may be harder for him to deal with than the Iraqis were". - REUTERS

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