By Luis Ramirez
U.S. President Barack Obama has put his nomination of General John Allen as NATO’s supreme commander on hold, pending an investigation into the U.S. commander in Afghanistan’s alleged “inappropriate communications” with a woman involved in the scandal that led to the resignation of Central Intelligence Agency chief David Petraeus.
A National Security Council spokesman, Tommy Vietor, says President Obama delayed the nomination at the request of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
Obama nominated General Allen to take over as the Supreme Allied Commander Europe a month before Petraeus resigned Friday, citing an extramarital affair.
The allegations against General Allen involve his correspondence with Jill Kelley, who has been described as a Petraeus family friend. It was her complaint to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about threatening emails from the woman with whom Petraeus had the affair, his biographer Paula Broadwell, that led to his resignation.
A senior defense official says the FBI is examining 20,000 to 30,000 pages of communications involving General Allen and Kelley – mostly emails sent between 2010 and 2012.
A Pentagon spokesman, George Little, said the FBI brought the matter involving General Allen to the Defense Department on Sunday and Panetta directed the Pentagon’s inspector-general to investigate.
General Allen has denied wrongdoing and will retain his command position in Afghanistan during the probe.
The U.S. defense official who discussed the case would not specify the nature of the documents, but said there is a “distinct possibility” the matter is connected to the Petraeus investigation. He said he did not know whether Petraeus was mentioned in the emails between General Allen and Kelley.
The official also would not say whether the investigation is criminal, but said the situation prompted enough concern that the Pentagon believed it was prudent to order an investigation and notify Congress.
President Obama had previously nominated General Joseph Dunford to replace General Allen in Afghanistan. The Pentagon says Panetta would like General Dunford confirmed as quickly as possible, regardless of the new investigation.