Marine Gen. John Allen is reconsidering whether he wants to take the helm of European Command after relinquishing command in Afghanistan and going through an embarrassing investigation into his relationship with a Florida socialite.
Allen stepped down as the head of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan after 19 months in command, making him the longest serving ISAF commander. In November, he got swept into the scandal surrounding retired Army Gen. David Petraeus, the former CIA chief.
The FBI investigation that led to Petraeus admitting he had an affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, also uncovered that Allen had maintained a lengthy email relationship with Jill Kelley, a socialite at U.S. Central Command. Allen had served as the deputy commander at CentCom before taking command in Afghanistan. The Pentagon completed an investigation to determine if Allen’s relationship with Kelley was inappropriate.
Allen was exonerated on Jan. 22. President Obama, who had already nominated Allen as the head of European Command and Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, said Allen remained his nominee for the position.
However, Allen is now debating whether he wants to take the job, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Wednesday at his last press conference as the defense secretary.
Panetta said the Defense Department and the White House still strongly support the choice of Allen to head European Command. However, Panetta acknowledged that Allen has “been under a tremendous amount of pressure" in the wake of the email investigation and the planning for the troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Allen returned to Washington after handing off command of ISAF to Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford on Feb. 10. Allen met with Panetta on Tuesday at the Pentagon to discuss his future.
"My recommendation to him was to take your time" on whether he wanted to go ahead with the nomination process for the European Command that would lead to tough questioning before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
"You've got to make the decision as to what you want to do in the future," Panetta said he told Allen.
Panetta said Allen did not indicate to him that he was backing away from the nomination. It’s unclear if Allen would consider another position or simply retire.
The defense secretary said he still has “tremendous confidence” in Allen, but his advice to the four-star general was to spend more time discussing the decision with his family.