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Trump Taps Ex-Marine General As Defense Secretary

  • RFE/RL

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has tapped a retired U.S. Marine Corps general known for blunt talk and battlefield victories in Iraq and Afghanistan to be his defense secretary.

Trump made the announcement that he wanted General James Mattis to head the Pentagon during a rally on December 1.

Mattis, 66, led Marine divisions in the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, and then the 2003 invasion to topple Iraq's Saddam Hussein. He later commanded the U.S. troops that retook the Iraqi city of Fallujah during one of the war's bloodiest battles in 2004.

He led U.S. Central Command beginning in 2010, overseeing military operations in the Middle East until his retirement in 2013.

Since retiring, Mattis has been outspoken in his criticism of President Barack Obama's policies in the region, saying they had contributed to the rise of extremism there.

He's also voiced tough positions on Iran, as well as Russia, something that puts him at odds with the conciliatory stance Trump has expressed toward Moscow.

Known within military circles by the nickname "Mad Dog," Mattis's blunt, acerbic manner has earned him rebukes in the past.

In 2005, he drew criticism when he told a panel discussion in California, "It's fun to shoot some people."

"You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn't wear a veil," Mattis said in comments that were recorded on video. "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."

Mattis is likely to get strong backing from Congress, which must approve his nomination.

Before they do that, however, they will have to pass an exemption to current law restricting when military personnel can hold senior civilian Defense Department positions after retiring.

With Mattis's nomination, Trump has named most of his top foreign-policy advisers and cabinet members, though he has still not settled on a candidate to be secretary of state.

With reporting by The Washington Post and Reuters
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