Trump adviser Steve Bannon have targeted McMaster as insufficiently supportive of Israel and insufficiently tough toward Iran. They’ve expressed outrage about the firings of several aides regarded as sympathetic to their views. An online campaign – under the hashtag #FireMcMaster – prompted Trump to declare his support for his adviser.
The dispute reflects the tensions at the heart of Trump’s foreign policy coalition. McMaster is one of several powerful generals in Trump’s orbit who hail from the Republican foreign policy establishment. But Trump is equally sympathetic to the views of firebrands like Bannon, who are trying to push the party in a new, isolationist direction embodied by his “America First” doctrine.
McMaster and Bannon have clashed loudly and repeatedly during recent White House discussions over Afghanistan war strategy, according to four administration officials and outside advisers. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss private conversations.
Afghanistan, however, represents only the latest dispute between McMaster and Bannon, who’ve also fought over White House personnel.
McMaster, an Army general, recently purged three National Security Council officials who were viewed as close to Bannon or to Michael Flynn, Trump’s previous national security adviser. For people close to Bannon, the moves were seen as telling. The former chief of Breitbart News, who wants Trump to upend the Washington foreign policy establishment, has bitterly argued against further US entanglement in global conflicts and believes McMaster is adhering to holdover Obama administration policies.