H.R. McMaster, President Donald Trump’s new national security adviser, spoke at a naturalization ceremony in Alexandria, Virginia, earlier this month where an Iraqi family he sponsored became US citizens, an administration official tells CNN.
McMaster worked closely with the Iraqi man during Battle of Tal Afar in northern Iraq in 2005, the official said, and subsequently sponsored his family to immigrate to the United States and become citizens. The family invited the Army lieutenant general to the event, where he was asked to give brief remarks, the official added.
McMasters’ attendance at the naturalization ceremony comes in the midst of the Trump administration’s crackdown on refugee travel and weeks after the White House tried to ban immigration temporarily from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Iraq.
That attempt was thwarted by court rulings, but on Monday, the White House rolled out a second attempt at a travel ban. This time, though, it notably left Iraq off the list of banned countries.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Monday that Iraq was removed from the list after assurances about stricter screening were given from the Iraqi government.
A senior US official told CNN Monday that Iraq was removed from the revised travel ban after intensive lobbying from the highest levels of the Iraqi government, including during a phone call between Trump and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on February 10.
During his second tour of duty in Iraq, McMaster commanded the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment in 2004 and was tasked with securing Tal Afar, a city roughly 50 miles west of Mosul. McMaster was publicly heralded for his leadership during Operation Restoring Rights, including when then-President George W. Bush mentioned the general in a speech about the Iraq War in 2006.
“I wish I could tell you that the progress made in Tal Afar is the same in every single part of Iraq. It’s not,” Bush said during the speech in Cleveland. “The example of Tal Afar gives me confidence in our strategy, because in this city we see the outlines of the Iraq that we and the Iraqi people have been fighting for: a free and secure people who are getting back on their feet, who are participating in government and civic life, and who have become allies in the fight against the terrorists.”