With Gen. John Kelly taking over his new role of White House Chief of Staff in late July, national security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster got another chance to purge the National Security Council (NSC) of some of chief strategist Steven Bannon's extremist picks. Specifically, Ezra Cohen-Watnick and ret. Col. Derek Harvey while Rick Waddell who is McMaster's deputy fired Rich Higgins. On the same day of those firings, John Kelly called the new communications director Anthony Scaramucci into his office to fire him.

McMaster vs. Bannon

The perception was that John Kelly would restore some much needed normalcy in the White House.

It would appear that during his first week that he had done so, somewhat, and now as a result, access to the President had been redirected to go through the new Chief of Staff. Reports of the first week of Kelly's new position appear to confirm this. But with the White House and Congress on vacation for a month, more examples of this will be suspended until their return.

Prior to John Kelly, H.R. McMaster appeared to be alone in attempting to establish the procedural norms of the NSC before, demoting Steve Bannon "out" of the council. This obviously upset Bannon as he saw himself as the force that would weaken the "deep state" Bureaucracy starting with the White House. President Trump had also been resistant to McMaster's initial demands to get rid of people like Ezra Cohen-Watnick and even Bannon himself.

Chief Strategist losing support

Bannon was reportedly upset that McMaster fired three of his own people who made up for the more influential delivery parts of his agenda to counter the NSC. Prior to the arrival of John Kelly, they in fact would be able to influence the President more directly with the Chief Strategist's agenda.

But it has also been reported that in the process, Bannon himself has been behind some leaks that were designed to damage McMaster's reputation. At the very least, the Chief Strategist had been able to speak almost directly to the Alt-Right community in going after McMaster on social and nationalist media circles influencing the idea that President Trump fire McMaster.

In an article by Politico titled: "Breitbart's war on McMaster bites Bannon", it reports that the chief strategist is laying low knowing that his intent against the General is already beginning to backfire. But this really began when he also lost his support when former chief of staff Reince Priebus was fired. Preibus was a Bannon ally and had essentially enabled him. Now, for the chief strategist to operate as he had before Priebus was removed; he sees now that it likely isn't going to work anymore and is now under scrutiny for leaking stories that are against the national security adviser.

General's NSC position vulnerable?

But in the week before leaving for a 17-day vacation, it was reported that President Trump fought with McMaster and other generals in the NSC about Afghanistan.

In one report published by the Washington Post titled: "National security adviser attempts to reconcile Trump’s competing impulses on Afghanistan", it said that the President asked the generals two questions. The first being "why the United States wasn't winning in Afghanistan" and "why the U.S. was still stuck there after 15-years." One person labeled by the article as a White House aide said that McMaster was able to answer the first question almost immediately, but that he either didn't hear the first question or he deliberately avoided it.

The article said that the White House aide was "close" to McMaster. Whether that means that the aide was personally close to the General or just physically is not clear.

The assumption that McMaster might have intentionally dodged the question could suggest that the aide is a McMaster rival and actually sides with Bannon. It's recently been reported that President Trump was considering firing a commander in Afghanistan and replacing him with H.R. in order to get him out of the way. On Sunday in an interview with Meet the Press, McMaster was asked about the internal conflicts and would only go as far as to say that those who were not helping to improve the NSC would no longer included.