Marine Corps General James Mattis has been picked to take over United States Central Command, the Pentagon announced yesterday.

Mattis will replace General David Petraeus, who is now in Afghanistan as the United States and Nato's top military officer there.

Petraeus replaced General Stanley McChrystal, who was fired for speaking ill of his civilian bosses.

Defence Secretary Robert Gates told reporters that he picked Mattis for his "strategic insight and independent thinking".

Mattis is a blunt-talking, seasoned veteran best known for leading troops into the bloody battle of Fallujah in Iraq in 2004.