Jan. 23 (Bloomberg) -- A Defense Department investigation found no evidence of wrongdoing by Marine General John Allen, President Barack Obama’s nominee to be NATO’s top commander, in e-mails the military leader exchanged with a Florida woman.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta requested a probe into the propriety of the e-mail communications between Allen, the commander of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan, and Jill Kelley of Tampa. The inquiry concluded that Allen didn’t engage in professional misconduct, Pentagon press secretary George Little said yesterday.
“The secretary has complete confidence in the continued leadership of General Allen, who is serving with distinction in Afghanistan,” Little said in an e-mailed statement.
The findings of the Pentagon’s inspector general clears a path for Allen’s nomination as Supreme Allied Commander of North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces. The Pentagon had asked the Senate Armed Services Committee in November to postpone confirmation hearings while the probe was under way. White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters today that the administration is urging the Senate to proceed with Allen’s nomination.
“From the outset, the general placed his faith in -- and fully supported -- the investigative process,” Allen’s spokesman, Marine Corp Major David Nevers, said today in an e-mailed statement. “He’s obviously pleased by the outcome.”
Allen, 59, exchanged a series of e-mails with Kelley, who has described herself as a friend of the general and his family. Their relationship surfaced because of a complaint she filed about harassing e-mails from an anonymous sender that led to the Nov. 9 resignation of CIA Director David H. Petraeus.
Kelley’s complaint to an acquaintance who is an FBI agent triggered an investigation that uncovered an affair between Petraeus, a retired Army general, and his biographer Paula Broadwell, U.S. officials have said.
The harassing e-mails to Kelley were traced to Broadwell, according to three people briefed on the FBI probe. The Justice Department last month decided against pursuing cyber-stalking charges against Broadwell, according to the Associated Press.
Kelley and her husband, Scott, an oncology surgeon, wrote in a Washington Post article published online yesterday how their lives were disrupted by a flood of media coverage of their role in the Petraeus scandal.
“After our names were linked to the Petraeus story, a horde of paparazzi stormed our front lawn,” the couple wrote. “We didn’t want our silence to validate false headlines, but we did what most people unaccustomed to such a blitzkrieg would do: walled it off in the hopes the storm would fade or pass.”
The Kelleys, parents of three young daughters, criticized media reports that incorrectly said Jill Kelley and Allen exchanged 30,000 e-mails and that insinuated she and the general were involved in an extramarital relationship.
“This small sample of junk reporting was emotionally exhausting and damaging -- as it would be to the strongest of families,” they wrote.
Jill Kelley became acquainted with Allen and Petraeus through social events she hosted at her Tampa home for military officers from nearby MacDill Air Force Base, headquarters for U.S. Central Command.
Allen, a 1976 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, served as deputy commander of Central Command under Petraeus before taking over coalition forces in Afghanistan in July 2011.
Obama said on Jan. 11 that Afghan forces would take the lead security role for their country within a few months, sooner than planned, as the U.S. seeks to extricate itself from the 11-year war.
Allen has cited progress in handing more responsibility to Afghan forces in the fight against the Taliban as the U.S. winds down its combat operations there.
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