The U.S. Marine general in charge of allied forces in Afghanistan is under investigation after the FBI found e-mails showing inappropriate communication with a woman whose harassment complaint triggered the resignation of CIA Director David H. Petraeus, a U.S. defense official said.
General John Allen, who was nominated last month to become NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander, is being investigated by the Pentagon’s inspector general after the Federal Bureau of Investigation found e-mails between him and Jill Kelley, according to the official, who was on a military plane and spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity.
The FBI has handed over 20,000 to 30,000 pages of documents, most of them e-mails, the official said. President Barack Obama has “put on hold” Allen’s nomination to head U.S. forces in Europe at the request of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Tommy Vietor, spokesman for the National Security Council, said in an e-mailed statement.
Kelley is the Florida woman whose complaint to the FBI led to a probe that uncovered an affair between Petraeus, a retired Army general, and his biographer Paula Broadwell, U.S. officials have said. FBI agents last night searched Broadwell’s North Carolina home as U.S. lawmakers questioned the handling of the investigation that led to Petraeus’s resignation as head of the Central Intelligence Agency on Nov. 9.
Allen has denied that he acted inappropriately, the U.S. defense official said.
Asked about the situation during today’s press briefing, White House press secretary Jay Carney said that Obama “has faith in General Allen” and “believes he’s doing and has done an excellent job” in Afghanistan.
The e-mails were flirtatious exchanges from 2010 to 2012 that didn’t necessarily indicate an adulterous relationship, which is considered a crime under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, according to a defense official at the Pentagon, also discussing the matter on condition of anonymity. The official didn’t say whether the flirtatious remarks were made by Allen, by Kelley or by both of them.
The Pentagon informed the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Michigan Democrat Carl Levin, and the panel’s top Republican, John McCain of Arizona, about the allegations against Allen, asking them to postpone his confirmation hearing, Panetta said in a statement released to reporters traveling with him en route to a conference in Australia. The hearing had been scheduled to be held in Washington on Nov. 15.
The committee’s leaders said they agreed to suspend action on Allen’s nomination while proceeding with consideration of Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, who was nominated to succeed Allen in his current post.
“I’m not reaching any conclusions at this point” on the allegations involving Allen, McCain said in an interview at the Capitol. “We’ve got to look at the whole situation” involving Petraeus and Allen, he said.
Allen will remain commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan while the investigation is under way and is “entitled to due process,” Panetta said in his statement.
Obama urged the Senate to move swiftly in confirming Dunford, Vietor said in his statement, while “the president remains focused on fully supporting our extraordinary troops and coalition partners in Afghanistan, who General Allen continues to lead as he has so ably done for over a year.”
The Pentagon’s general counsel learned of the documents from the FBI and informed Panetta’s chief of staff at about 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Nov. 11 as the defense secretary was heading to Honolulu, according to the defense official on the plane. Obama was told about the allegations, according to the official, who said the Pentagon was confident that the e-mails actually were from Allen.
Three people -- all intelligence, military or congressional officials -- have identified Broadwell, who wrote “All In: The Education of David Petraeus,” as the woman who had an affair with Petraeus. The FBI investigation that unearthed the relationship began with a complaint from Kelley about harassing e-mails she had received, according to two law enforcement officials.
“We and our family have been friends with General Petraeus and his family for over five years,” Kelley and her husband, Scott, said in a Nov. 10 statement. “We respect his and his family’s privacy and want the same for us and our three children.”
The defense official at the Pentagon said Allen had met Kelley at social events as part of his community relations activities when he was deputy commander and commander of Central Command, which is based in Tampa, Florida.
Kelley participated in activities intended to strengthen the community’s bond with the command, the official said.
Kelley “had no official position” with Central Command, Lieutenant Colonel T.G. Taylor, a spokesman for the command, said today in an e-mail.
“She is a volunteer and a private citizen, not an employee,” Taylor said. “Because there is an ongoing investigation, we have no additional information to provide.”
Allen has emphasized progress in handing more responsibility to Afghan forces in the fight against the Taliban as the U.S. prepares to wind down its combat operations by the end of 2014. A review of options for the size and scope of the U.S. military’s role after then will be completed within weeks, Panetta told reporters yesterday.
The U.S. has 68,000 troops in Afghanistan as part of a force of more than 100,000, including members from nations in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Allen graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, in 1976, according to his official Marine Corps biography.