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General who led Camp Pendleton Marines into combat to become Central Command boss

July 8, 2010 |  1:20 pm
MattisXMarine Gen. James Mattis, who led Camp Pendleton Marines into combat in Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, has been nominated to become commander of U.S. Central Command, the Pentagon announced Thursday.

If confirmed by the Senate, Mattis will succeed Army Gen. David Petraeus, who now commands U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. The nomination of Mattis was made by Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Gates said that Mattis had "proven to be one of the military's most innovative and iconoclastic thinkers. His insights into the nature of warfare in the 21st century have influenced my own views."

Mattis would have responsibility for U.S. military operations from Pakistan to Egypt and Oman to Kazakhstan. He would be the combatant commander for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mattis' most recent post has been as commander of Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Va.

As a combatant commander, Mattis is known to believe in an aggressive approach, although he also was the co-author of the military's counter-insurgency doctrine, which calls for showing restraint, protecting civilian populations and winning their support.

At Camp Pendleton, he was the convening authority that brought charges against Marines accused of killing civilians in Iraq. He also ordered detention procedures rewritten to ensure humane treatment of prisoners in Iraq.

-- Tony Perry in San Diego