The Pentagon’s Inspector General has cleared Marine Gen. John Allen, the coalition commander in Afghanistan of any wrongdoing following an investigation into his email correspondence with a Florida socialite connected to the sex scandal involving former CIA Chief David Petraeus, officials said Tuesday.
The two-month investigation by the Defense Department’s IG found no professional misconduct by Allen in the voluminous email traffic he kept up over several years with Jill Kelley, often described as a “Tampa socialite” who was friendly with Allen, Petraeus and other top officers at U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Fla.
The Pentagon released a statement saying that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta “was pleased to learn that allegations of professional misconduct were not substantiated by the investigation. [Panetta] has complete confidence in the continued leadership of General Allen, who is serving with distinction in Afghanistan.”
The action by the IG cleared the way for Allen to turn over his command in Afghanistan next month to Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, who was confirmed by the Senate for the position in December.
Allen had been scheduled for confirmation hearings on his own nomination by President Obama to become head of the European Command, but those hearings were postponed during the investigation. There was no immediate word from the Pentagon or the Senate on whether Allen’s nomination would now proceed.
It was Kelley who issued a complaint to the FBI about receiving harassing emails from Paula Broadwell, who was Petreaus’ biographer. The FBI started an investigation that led to the discovery Petraeus and Broadwell were engaged in an affair. Petraeus, then the CIA Director and a retired four-star Army general, quickly resigned.
The FBI’s investigation also found voluminous correspondence between Allen and Kelley. Senior Pentagon officials said that most of the correspondence was innocuous but some of it could be considered “flirtatious” and “inappropriate.”
Petraeus and Allen had written character references for Kelley’s twin sister to a family court judge, who later decided against the sister in a custody fight with her ex-husband.
The Washington Post, which first reported that Allen had been cleared of wrongdoing, quoted a U.S. official as saying that “some of the messages are not the sort of things you would print in a family newspaper. But that doesn’t mean he violated military regulations by sending and receiving them.”
Allen has yet to issue his final recommendations to President Obama and the Defense Department on the pace of withdrawal of the 66,000 U.S. troops now in Afghanistan by the end of 2014, or the number of U.S. troops who will stay in Afghanistan after 2014 for training and counter-terrorism duties.
At the White House earlier this month with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Obama said it was possible that no U.S. troops would remain if the Afghans failed to guarantee their immunity from Afghan law.
The Washington Post cited U.S. officials as saying that Allen would like to keep about 9,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan after 2014, while White House officials prefer a force of 2,500 to 6,000.