Anti-interventionists in the White House waging a power struggle with hawkish generals have tried to diminish the influence of national security adviser H.R. McMaster by saying that he has already lost favor with President Donald Trump, The Hill reported on Wednesday.
The latest spark for the battle is the reported plans spearheaded by McMaster for the administration to send more troops to Afghanistan to bolster the fight against radical Islamic forces there.
Chief strategist Stephen Bannon is a "core architect of 'America first' unilateralism and has no interest in continuing forever-wars that lack support among the base in the region," international consulting firm Eurasia Group President Ian Bremmer told The Hill.
"If Trump ends up going with the generals' recommendation and increasing troops [in Afghanistan], the America first-ers will want to make sure McMaster takes the fall when it — inevitably, in their view — goes badly."
A senior intelligence official supported that theory, telling Foreign Policy that "McMaster is pushing this Afghanistan policy through. I think some people are giving him the rope to get it through, hoping he hangs himself with it."
Trump has expressed regret for selecting McMaster to replace Michael Flynn, according to Bloomberg View columnist Eli Lake, and has been upset with him for contradicting the president's policy and lecturing him on how to conduct policy.
Although White House press secretary Sean Spicer insisted to reporters on Tuesday that Trump has an "excellent" relationship with McMaster, sources close to Bannon maintain that the president's frustration with his national security adviser is real, according to The Hill.
It remains to be seen if the reports reflect a genuine dissatisfaction Trump has with McMaster, or if they are merely leaked by those supporting Bannon to try and discredit their rival as a way to increase influence in the White House.
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