Trump delivers McMaster stroke for US security

This article is more than 12 months old

WASHINGTON: The removal of US President Donald Trump's chief strategist from the National Security Council (NSC) on Wednesday appears to mark a victory for national security adviser H.R. McMaster, who had told some national security experts he felt he was in a "battle to the death" with Mr Steve Bannon and others on the White House staff.

Mr Trump also elevated General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Dan Coats, the director of National Intelligence who heads all 17 US intelligence agencies. A White House official said the change moves the NSC "back to its core function of what it's supposed to do".

Mr Bannon said in a statement he had succeeded in returning the NSC back to its traditional role of coordinating foreign policy rather than running it.

He cited former president Barack Obama's national security adviser, Ms Susan Rice, for why he advocated a change.

"Susan Rice operationalised the NSC during the last administration so I was put on NSC to ensure it was 'de-operationalised'. General McMaster has NSC back to its proper function," he said.

Mr Trump's White House team has grappled with infighting and intrigue that has hobbled his presidency.

In recent days, several other senior US foreign policy and national security officials have said the mechanisms for shaping the Trump administration's response to pressing challenges such as Syria, North Korea and Iran still were not in place.

Critics of Mr Bannon's role on the NSC said it gave too much weight in decision-making to someone who lacked foreign policy expertise.

US Representative Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, called the shift in the NSC a positive step that will help McMaster "gain control over a body that was being politicised by Bannon's involvement".

"As the administration's policy over North Korea, China, Russia and Syria continues to drift, we can only hope this shake-up brings some level of strategic vision to the body," he said.

But a Trump confidant said Mr Bannon remained as influential as ever. "He is still involved in everything and still has the full confidence of the president, but to be fair, he can only do so much stuff," the confidant said, speaking on condition of anonymity. - REUTERS

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