Trump Chooses Army General H.R. McMaster for National Security Adviser

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

Breitbart, by John Hayward, February 20, 2017:

On Monday, the White House announced Army Lt. General H.R. McMaster as the replacement for Michael Flynn as National Security Adviser.

McMaster was not one of the top candidates suggested by administration sources after President Trump’s first choice, retired Vice Admiral Robert Harward, declined the position. Over the weekend, President Trump began interviewing three new candidates, along with the current temporary occupant of the position, retired General Keith Kellogg. McMaster was one of the three, along with former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton and West Point superintendent Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen.

According to the White House announcement, Kellogg will continue serving under McMaster as chief of staff for the National Security Council.

Thomas Ricks at Foreign Policy predicted McMaster would be Trump’s choice for National Security Adviser on Monday morning, describing him as “smart, energetic, and tough.”

“He has good combat experience, he was a good trainer, and he led the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment well in his deployment to Iraq, most notably in pacifying Tell Afar, to the west of Mosul,” Ricks wrote, adding that McMaster was supported to a “surprising degree” by people who had worked for him in the past.

McMaster is the author of a highly-regarded book on Vietnam, Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chief of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam. The book strongly argues that military leadership should be willing to stand up to civilian political leaders when war is not waged successfully, and also criticizes Vietnam-era military leadership for becoming distracted by bureaucratic infighting.

McMaster’s leadership at the famed Battle of 73 Easting in Operation Desert Storm was an important part of the U.S. military’s resurgence, poetically described as “exorcising the ghosts of Vietnam” at the time. In that battle, a vastly outnumbered American unit defeated Iraqi forces with superior tactics, coordination, and technology, without suffering a single casualty. Last February, McMaster wrote an extensive account of the battle, and the lessons it provides for future conflict, for The National Interest.

He is noted as an advocate of both strong conventional military forces and cyber-warfare capability. Concerned by cuts to both manpower and equipment modernization, he warned the Senate last year that “we are outranged and outgunned by many potential adversaries… our Army in the future risks being too small to secure the nation.” One of the lessons he recommends learning from the Battle of 73 Easting, a quarter-century on, is that American forces may never again have such a pronounced technological advantage over enemy ground forces.

One of the adversaries McMaster particularly worries about is Russia. Defense One reported in May 2016 that he believes the Ukraine conflict has “revealed that the Russians have superior artillery firepower, better combat vehicles, and have learned sophisticated use of UAVs for tactical effect.”

McMaster feared American military planners have invested too much effort in “winning long-range missile duels,” proclaiming such tactics of limited use against the “dispersion, concealment, intermingling with civilian populations… the ability to disrupt our network strike capability, precision navigation and timing capabilities” demonstrated by Russian forces in Ukraine. He was also concerned about Russia’s advantages in battlefield artillery.

He was also concerned about Russia’s advantages in battlefield artillery, including their use of cluster munitions, thermobaric warheads, and heavy use of electronic warfare, citing reports of Russia’s astonishing effectiveness at shutting down Ukranian tactical radios, drones, and even the electrical fuses on their artillery shells. Even the vaunted American technological edge in air supremacy, tanks, and armored fighting vehicles has dangerously eroded, in McMaster’s estimation.

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Democrats, ‘Never Trumpers’ Thrilled at Prospect of Harward as National Security Adviser

Robert Harward / DOD

Robert Harward / DOD

Washington Free Beacon, by Adam Kredo, Feb. 16, 2017:

An ally of potential national security adviser Robert Harward is soliciting resumes from a who’s who of Republican foreign policy insiders and says the retired admiral and former Navy SEAL plans to revamp the White House’s National Security Council following the resignation earlier this week of Michael Flynn, according to an email obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

Mary Beth Long, a former CIA officer and official in the George W. Bush administration, recently emailed a handful of prominent foreign policy leaders in Washington, D.C., to gauge interest in serving under Harward.

Long, who signed a letter critical of Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign but later changed her opinion of the New York real estate developer, said in the email that “Bob Harward is going to ‘start over’ at the NSC in about two weeks.”

Republicans and Democrats alike have championed the selection of Harward, who served on the National Security Council during the George W. Bush administration and is close to Defense Secretary James Mattis. This includes several former Obama administration officials such as Tommy Vietor, who served as the NSC’s spokesman under Obama.

But Long’s email, as well as the positive reception of Harward among former Obama officials, has spooked several current officials who worked under Flynn. They are concerned that Harward is planning to wholly revamp the NSC and remove staffers close to Flynn’s former team.

Harward “plans a housecleaning of Trump’s National Security Council staff,” read the headline on an article Wednesday in Foreign Policy.

These fears come at a time when multiple reports indicate that there is disarray among team Trump and fractures among its senior staff.

A restructuring of the NSC at this time could harm the Trump administration and contribute to further disarray inside the White House, according to sources familiar with NSC deliberations who spoke to the Free Beacon late Wednesday about the matter.

Long informed her colleagues included on the email, many of whom also opposed Trump during the campaign, that she could help secure them a spot under Harward. It is unclear if Harward is aware of the effort.

Long said the email was meant to help the Trump administration tap the best minds for a job in the White House.

“I feel an obligation to do what I can to help them do what they do best ‘serve their country and the President’ if permitted,” she told the Free Beacon, adding the email was sent to “true professionals in the field” who would benefit the Trump administration.

“Please let me know (and please don’t think this is an endorsement—I leave that to you, just didn’t want the opportunity to pass if it is given),” Long wrote in her email to the group of Trump critics. “You all have worked so very hard.”

Inside the White House, current staffers are worried that a reshuffling so early on will hamstring an administration that is already struggling to maintain control of the public narrative.

The NSC in particular could find itself behind the curve if Harward brings in his own team of confidantes.

Those already working on and with the NSC have spent months planning their course of action and have worked to identify elements of the administration still staffed by those who oppose Trump.

Multiple reports have indicated that the leaks targeting Flynn were in part spread by Obama administration loyalists still working within the government.

Those inside the White House fear that a massive overhaul would turn back the clock and erase some of the work already taking place inside the White House, according to those sources familiar with current NSC deliberations.

“I never informed my colleagues that I could ‘help secure’ them jobs,” Long wrote in an email to the Free Beacon after this article was published. “In fact, I specifically state that this is not an endorsement and that I would provide the resumes if ‘given the opportunity.’ These are dedicated and talented professionals whose work is exceptional and who welcome the opportunity to serve their country. The article inaccurately characterized the recipients of the email as ‘Never Trumpers’ and both the purpose and intent of the email.”

US-Russian steps vs Iran await new NSC chief

flynnout_eng
DEBKAfile, February 14, 2016

Michael Flynn’s abrupt resignation as National Security Adviser Monday night, Feb. 13, was a crippling blow to Donald Trump’s foreign policy strategy, less than a month after he entered the White House. Flynn was the architect and prime mover of the president’s plans for close cooperation with Russian President Vladimir Putin. He was brought down by misinforming Vice President Mike Pence – and very likely the president too – on the content of the conversation he held with the Russian ambassador before Trump’s inauguration.

Although retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg takes over as acting NSA, the White House is urgently considering a permanent replacement to fill Flynn’s large shoes. Former CIA Director David Petraeus’ name has come up, but his indiscretions over state secrets still count against him. Vice Admiral Robert Harward, a former Navy SEAL, is a strong contender, although more may emerge.

Even before picking his next national security adviser, Trump will need to determine how to proceed with his détente with Putin, the highly sensitive details of which were managed personally and confidentially by Mike Flynn as the centerpiece of the new administration’s foreign policy.

His contacts with Moscow were under heavy fire from the president’s friends and foes alike, both before and after the November election. It was defended stalwartly by Trump himself, Pence and Flynn. However, neither the president nor the vice president can tell exactly what Flynn promised the Russians and to what deals he committed them. Therefore, his successor will be required to start building Washington’s ties with Moscow from scratch.

While Flynn’s departure has caused havoc in the Trump administration, it is a catastrophe for the Middle East, because a core objective of the US-Russian partnership, which he shaped as a model for other regions, was to have been to clip Iran’s wings and cut down its standing down as premier Middle East power conferred by Barack Obama.

(How the Flynn mechanism was to work plus detailed analysis of the fallout from his departure will be covered exclusively in the coming issue of DEBKA Weekly out next Friday).

Flynn alone was privy to arrangements concluded with Saudi King Salman in Riyadh, Jordan’s King Abdullah in Amman, President Putin in Moscow, Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisis in Cairo and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

Some of his output began taking shape on the day he stepped down, when Syrian rebel groups led by Jordanian special operations officers attacked Syrian army positions in the southern town of Daraa. This was the start of an operation to drive Syrian government forces and their Iranian and Hizballah allies from the lands bordering on Jordan and Israel.

In Cairo, too, President Michel Aoun of Lebanon and his host, El-Sisi were hashing out a plan for the Egyptian army and Gulf forces to go into action against Hizballah in Syria and Lebanon.
Wednesday, Feb. 15, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is to visit the White House for his first meeting with Trump as president. They too were scheduled to discuss US operations against Hizballah and the role Israel would play.

In the coming hours, Trump will have to decide whether to go ahead with these initiatives in the absence of Flynn and his detailed knowledge of how they should go forward, or simply put them on hold until his successor is in place and has time for a full study of their complicated ins and outs. At the same time, a different national security adviser in the White house might have different plans to those laid out by his predecessor.