The nomination of the U.S. commander of the war in Afghanistan to run NATO and U.S. European Command — perhaps the Pentagon’s most prestigious overseas posting — has been delayed because the four-star Marine general is now being investigated for emails from the woman who alerted the FBI and led to the revelation that CIA chief David Petraeus was having an affair.
Out of the country and several miles safely over the Pacific aboard his Doomsday plane, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta early Tuesday decided to halt, at least temporarily, the nomination of General John Allen as NATO military chief. “I have asked the President – and the President has agreed – to put his nomination on hold until the relevant facts are determined,” Panetta said in a statement. “I have asked both Senators [Carl] Levin and [John] McCain that the confirmation hearing on General Allen’s pending nomination to be Commander of United States European Command and Supreme Allied Commander, Europe be delayed.”
The FBI has found between 20,000 and 30,000 pages of communications, largely emails from 2010 to 2012, between Allen and Jill Kelley, a long-time friend of the Petraeus family and a Tampa, Fla., volunteer social liaison with military families at MacDill Air Force Base, a U.S. official told reporters traveling with Panetta to Australia. They included “potentially inappropriate” communications, and the sheer volume is extraordinary. Pentagon officials are dumb-founded and wonder if any additional cases are out there, ticking away.
Allen spent three years at MacDill — headquarters of the U.S. Central Command — (as Petraeus’ deputy there from 2008 to 2010) before leaving Tampa to take over command of the Afghan war from Petraeus. Allen, who is married, has denied any wrongdoing. Panetta has handed the investigation over to the Defense Department’s inspector general. “He is entitled to due process in this matter,” the defense secretary said.
Kelley complained about harassing emails from the woman with whom Petraeus had had an affair, Paula Broadwell, that prompted an FBI investigation, leading to Petraeus quitting the CIA post last Friday. Allen’s Senate hearing to become Supreme Allied Commander Europe and NATO military chief had been slated for Thursday.