Gen John Allen, the top American and NATO commander in Afghanistan, is under investigation for what a senior defence official Tuesday said was “inappropriate communication’’ with Jill Kelley, the woman in Florida who was seen as a rival for David H Petraeus’s attentions by Paula Broadwell, the woman who had an extra-marital affair with Petraeus.
In a statement released to reporters on his plane en route to Australia, Defence Secretary Leon E Panetta said that the FBI had Sunday referred “a matter involving” Allen to the Pentagon.
Panetta turned the matter over to the Pentagon’s inspector general to conduct an investigation into what the defence official said were 20,000 to 30,000 pages of documents, many of them emails between Allen and Kelley, who is married with children and lives in Tampa.
Asked if the FBI had determined that there was criminal action involved, the defence official replied, “That is for the FBI to discuss.” The official, who briefed reporters on Panetta’s plane, said that “there is the distinct possibility’’ that the e-mails were connected to an ongoing FBI investigation into Petraeus and Broadwell.
The defense official said that Allen, who is also married, told Pentagon officials he had done nothing wrong. Neither he nor Kelley could be reached for comment. Panetta’s statement praised Allen for his leadership in Afghanistan and said that “he is entitled to due process in this matter.”
But the Pentagon inspector general’s investigation opens up what could be a widening scandal into two of the most prominent generals of their generation - Petraeus, who was the top commander in Iraq and Afghanistan before he retired from the military and became CIA director, only to resign Friday because of the affair, and Allen, who also served in Iraq and now commands 68,000 American troops in Afghanistan.
Although Allen will remain the commander in Afghanistan, Panetta said that he had asked President Obama to put on hold Allen’s nomination to be the commander of American forces in Europe and the supreme allied commander of NATO, two positions he was to move into after what was expected to be easy confirmation by the Senate. Panetta said in his statement that Obama agreed with his decision.
Gen. Joseph A Dunford, the assistant commandant of the marine corps who was nominated last month by Obama to succeed Allen in Afghanistan, will proceed as planned with his confirmation hearing.
The defense official said that the e-mails between Kelley and Allen spanned the years 2010 to 2012. The official could not explain why there were so many pages of e-mails and did not specify their content. The official said he could not explain how the e-mails between Kelley and Allen were related to the e-mails between Petraeus and Broadwell and e-mails between Broadwell and Kelley.
In what is known so far, Kelley went to the FBI last summer after she was disturbed by harassing e-mails. The FBI began an investigation and learned that the e-mails were from Broadwell. In the course of looking into Broadwell’s e-mails, the FBI discovered e-mails between Broadwell and Petraeus that indicated they were having an extramarital affair. Broadwell, officials say, saw Kelley as a rival for her affections with Petraeus.
The defense official said he did not know how Allen and Kelley knew each other. Allen has been in Afghanistan as the top American commander since July 2011, although before that he lived in Tampa as the deputy commander for Central Command, which oversees American military operations in the Middle East.
The defense official said that the Pentagon had received the 20,000 to 30,000 pages of documents from the FBI and was currently reviewing them.
GEN DAVID PETRAEUS: Former US commander in Afghanistan and Iraq who quit as CIA director after his extra-marital affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell was discovered.
PAULA BROADWELL: Former US military officer who spent time with Petraeus in Afghanistan to write his biography All In: The Education of General David Petraeus. Believed to have sent threatening emails to Jill Kelley, who she saw as a rival for Petraeus’s affections.
JILL KELLEY: A volunteer at US Air Force base in Tampa, and a friend of Petraeus. She complained to FBI after getting intimidating emails, leading to investigators discovering Broadwell-Petraeus affair.
GEN JOHN ALLEN: US and NATO commander in Afghanistan being probed for “inappropriate communication” with Kelley. About 20,000-30,000 pages of documents linked to their communication are being probed.