Friday, July 9, 2010

'Killing enthusiast' to replace Petraeus

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates has named James Mattis, a four-star Marine general known for his blunt speech, as the new head of US Central Command.

Mattis is an erudite combat veteran known for quoting poetry and openly expressing his enthusiasm for "killing the enemy," Los Angeles Times reported on Thursday.

The nomination that was announced on Thursday brought Secretary Gates under fire for choosing a general who was officially rebuked over his remarks in 2005 regarding the killing of Afghans.

"Actually, it's a lot of fun to fight," the Los Angeles Times quoted Mattis as saying. "You know, it's a hell of a hoot... It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right upfront with you. I like brawling."

Gates, however, dismissed the criticism saying that those comments were made five years ago, and that "appropriate action was taken at the time”, The New York Times reported.

Calling Mattis one of the best combat leaders and strategic thinkers and praising him for his insight into warfare, Gates said that he spoke about the issue with Mattis and was assured that the general will be careful.

If the nomination is approved by the Senate, Mattis will replace Gen. David Petraeus who took command of NATO forces in Afghanistan last week. Gen. Mattis is currently in charge of the military's Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia.

Petraeus replaces Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who was was effectively fired for remarks he and his aides made to a reporter for Rolling Stone about President Barack Obama and other US officials.

As head of Central Command, Mattis would oversee US military operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as across the Middle East, including Iraq. In his new position, Mattis technically would be Petraeus' boss.


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