Agence France-Presse
July 9, 2010

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates named General James Mattis on Thursday as the new head of US Central Command, or CENTCOM, which has overall control of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mattis, whose appointment must be confirmed by the Senate, replaces General David Petraeus, who took over direct command of the faltering Afghan conflict after his predecessor was fired for giving a damaging magazine interview.

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The naming of Mattis was unlikely to skirt the issue, however, with Gates having to immediately defend an on-camera 2005 interview in which the general said: “Actually, it’s a lot of fun to fight. You know, it’s a hell of a hoot.

“You go into Afghanistan; you’ve got guys who slap around women for five years because they didn’t wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway, so it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.”

Gates dismissed the criticism, however, maintaining that appropriate action was taken at the time and that he thought the “subsequent five years have demonstrated that the lesson was learned.”


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