The US military, still recovering from the shock of the sacking of General Stanley McChrystal, its top commander in Afghanistan – is facing fresh problems over revelations that another top commander declared that it was "fun to shoot people" in Afghanistan.
A video of General James Mattis making his comments was yesterday spreading through the Muslim world at a fraught time in Afghanistan for the US and it's Western allies. General Mattis has been named as successor to General David Petreaus as head of US Central Command. General Petraeus is moving to Afghanistan after McChrystal's sacking over derogatory remarks made about President Obama to Rolling Stone magazine. But General Mattis has yet to be confirmed by the US Senate. The general led the controversial US military assault on the Iraqi city of Fallujah in 2004.
The comments which have come back to haunt him were made at a leadership seminar in 2005. He said: "Actually, it's a lot of fun to fight. You know it's a helluva hoot. I'll be right up front with you. I like brawling. You go into Afghanistan, you get guys who slap women around for five years because they didn't wear a veil ... guys like that ain't got no manhood left anyway. So it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them."
Robert Gates, the US Defence Secretary, said that the remarks were made five years ago and General Mattis had learnt his lesson. But one senior American officer serving in Kabul, said: "This is not what we want to see happen after a very difficult time in the campaign. But we don't think the Senate will block his appointment.
"The fact is people in the forces tend not to speak like bishops. We'll have to make clear to Afghans that what he was talking about related to the Taliban, who oppress women, and certainly not Afghans and Muslims as a whole."