Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster reportedly urged President Donald Trump to stop using the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” in a private meeting earlier in February, stirring a fight between elements of the National Security Council (NSC).
Trump’s new pick for national security adviser later repeated the comments in his first meeting with NSC staffers at the White House.
“Even a small change like referring to radical Islamist terrorism would be an improvement, in his view,” an NSC staffer told Politico. He even asked White House Senior Advisor Stephen Miller to nix the phrase from Trump’s Tuesday address to Congress.
A White House aide confirmed to Politico that the phrase would remain in the speech despite McMaster’s push. His approach differ’s sharply from Trump’s repeated declaration of the phrase, and criticism of former President Barack Obama’s refusal to use it.
White House Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon, and Deputy Assistant to the President Dr. Sebastian Gorka have repeatedly defended Trump’s use of the phrase saying it accurately characterizes the threat. Critics of the phrase say it may alienate essential U.S. allies in Muslim majority countries that will be needed in the fight against the Islamic State.
Trump will likely deploy the phrase in reference to his renewed efforts to defeat the Islamic State. Pentagon officials confirmed Monday they had delivered a range of options, which will likely range from loosening rules of engagement, a potential increase in the number of U.S. special operators in Syria, and a more comprehensive strategy to combat ISIS ideology.
“This plan is a political-military plan,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford told a think tank audience Friday. “The grievances of the [Syrian] civil war have to be addressed, the safety and humanitarian assistance that needs to be provided to people have to be addressed, and the multiple divergent stakeholders’ views need to be addressed.” He added that the plan will be to coordinate with several other U.S. government agencies.
“Anyone who cannot condemn the hatred, oppression and violence of radical Islam lacks the moral clarity to serve as our president,” Trump declared in the 2016 campaign. The issue became particularly poignant after the November 2015 Paris attacks, the December 2015 San Bernardino attack, and the June 2016 Orlando club massacre. Trump said Obama should resign over his inability to use the phrase after the Orlando attack.
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