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Gen. James Mattis: Petraeus's new boss boasts a salty mouth, keen mind

Gen. James Mattis is the Pentagon's pick to replace Gen. David Petraeus as head of US Central Command, the area of responsibility that includes Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran.

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Gen. James Mattis commanded marines in Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003 and 2004. He is pictured here in Camp Pendleton, Calif., in March.

Charlie Neuman/San Diego Union-Tribune/ZUMA Press/Newscom

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The Pentagon opted for continuity Thursday in naming Marine Gen. James Mattis to take the reins of Central Command, the general who oversees US military operations and planning in crucial countries including Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and Pakistan.

If confirmed by the Senate, Mattis would replace Army Gen. David Petraeus, who stepped down from his post at Central Command to take direct control of the US war effort in Afghanistan after the resignation of Gen. Stanley McChrystal.

Mattis and Petraeus are the joint architects of how America now fights counterinsurgencies. Drawing extensively on their experiences as commanders during the earliest and most tumultuous period of the Iraq insurgency, Petraeus and Mattis wrote the military's primary manual on counterinsurgency.

They are, in many ways, the twin pillars of modern American warfare – erudite, inventive, and allied in a conviction that defeating an insurgency requires a fundamental revision of how soldiers and marines fight.

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