The Pentagon has cleared the top US commander in Afghanistan of wrongdoing over e-mails with a woman tied to the sex scandal that forced former CIA director David Petraeus to resign, a US official said on Tuesday.
The US Defense Department’s inspector general (IG) completely exonerated International Security Assistance Force Commander General John Allen, the outgoing head of US-led forces in Afghanistan, over the e-mails, paving the way for his pending nomination to take up command of NATO forces in Europe, the official said.
“Allen has been cleared by the IG,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
The FBI came upon the e-mails from Allen in its probe of Petraeus, and defense officials had said the tone of the messages had been potentially “inappropriate” and possibly violated rules applying to military officers.
Allen had exchanged messages with Jill Kelley, a Florida socialite who had thrown parties for senior officers at US Central Command, which has its headquarters in Tampa.
Kelley had alerted the FBI to anonymous e-mails she received and claimed were threatening. The e-mails were traced to David Petraeus’ biographer, Paula Broadwell, and authorities then uncovered evidence that Broadwell was having an affair with the CIA director.
The scandal prompted Petraeus to resign abruptly in November last year, ending a storied career marked by his tenure as military commander in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
However, the FBI also found numerous e-mails between Allen and Kelley, and US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta ordered an independent inquiry by the Pentagon inspector general.
Initially, officials had said there were between 25,000 and 30,000 pages of correspondence between Allen and Kelley, raising questions that his e-mails could reflect a distracted commander, but officials later said the inquiry was only focused on a few hundred messages.
The scandal broke after Allen was nominated to take over as NATO’s supreme allied commander and his confirmation hearings before the US Senate were put on hold as a result.
Throughout the inspector general’s inquiry, Panetta and other top officials have expressed full confidence in Allen’s handling of the war effort in Afghanistan.
Kelley, in her first interview since the case came to light, said on Tuesday the media frenzy over the scandal had been a nightmare for her family, that she never had a romantic link to Allen and that she decided not to press charges against Petraeus’ mistress over her allegedly menacing messages.
Allen succeeded Petraeus as the top commander in Afghanistan, taking over in July 2011. The four-star general is due to hand over his post to General Joseph Dunford next month.