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WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump has named John Bolton, a hardliner US diplomat, as his new national security adviser, replacing Gen H.R. McMaster who, the White House said, is also retiring from the US Army.

“After 34 years of service to our nation, I am requesting retirement from the US Army effective this summer after which I will leave public service,” said Gen McMaster in a statement the White House released on Thursday afternoon.

The White House said that Gen McMaster would stay until mid-April to ensure a smooth transition and upon his departure, Ambassador John Bolton would take over as President Trump’s new national security adviser.

Bolton opposes use of blunt American pressure on Pakistan

Mr Bolton will be President Trump’s third adviser in a little more than a year. Gen McMaster had succeeded Michael Flynn in February 2017 after Mr Flynn was forced to leave over his alleged undisclosed meetings with Russian officials.

The New York Times noted that Gen McMaster was brought “to stabilise a turbulent foreign policy operation” but he “never developed a comfortable relationship with the president,” which led to his unexpected departure from the White House.

The Washington Post noted that President Trump and Gen McMaster “often seemed at odds on matters of policy related to Iran and North Korea”.

The Wall Street Journal reported that despite disagreements, Mr Trump arranged a “more graceful exit for his national security adviser than the one he afforded his secretary of state, whom he fired over Twitter last week”.

But President Trump did use Twitter to announce Mr Bolton’s nomination, as he often does to declare major decisions. “I am pleased to announce that, effective 4/9/18, Ambassador John Bolton will be my new National Security Adviser,” he tweeted.

NYT described Mr Bolton, as “one of the most hawkish national security teams of any White House in recent history”.

A brief résumé distributed by the White House said Mr Bolton served as US Permanent Representative to the United Nations from 2005-06 and as Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security from 2001-05 and was an expert “on the full range of national security issues and challenges facing the country”.

But the US media warned that the change “signals a more confrontational approach in American foreign policy at a time when Mr Trump faces mounting challenges, including from Iran and North Korea”.

The media also noted that last week, President Trump replaced his Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo, a conservative Congressman who has called for a regime change in North Korea and for “ripping up the Iran nuclear deal” signed by the Obama administration.

Bolton about Pakistan

Mr Bolton too has similar views on these and other issues. But his views on Pakistan do leave some room for Islamabad to manoeuvre.

In an article he wrote for WSJ a week after President Trump announced his new strategy for South Asia, Mr Bolton wrote: “Almost certainly, the war in Afghanistan will be won or lost in Pakistan.”

He accused Islamabad of providing financial and military aid and sanctuaries to the Taliban, the Haqqani network and other militant groups, but warned that “in this unstable environment, blunt pressure by the US — and, by inference, India — could backfire”.

Arguing that it was “imperative to keep Islamabad from falling under the sway of radical Islamists,” Mr Bolton urged the US policymakers to “remember that Pakistan has been a nuclear state for nearly two decades”.

He warned that if Pakistan’s nuclear weapons fell into radical hands, “the US would instantly face many times the dangers posed by nuclear Iran or North Korea”.

Published in Dawn, March 24th, 2018