US Marine General John Allen, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan and was caught up, but later cleared, in the scandal that forced former CIA director and general David Petraeus to resign, said on Tuesday he would retire and forgo his nomination to become NATO’s supreme allied commander because of his wife’s health.
The decision ends the career of one of the US military’s most well-known leaders, who until Feb. 10 spent 19 months in Afghanistan trying to help wind down the US’ longest war and strengthen Afghanistan’s military to fight insurgency.
Beyond the pressures of war, Allen faced a media frenzy over a high-profile Pentagon investigation that last month cleared him of wrongdoing in his e-mail exchanges with a Florida socialite, Jill Kelley.
The e-mails came to light in an investigation of Petraeus, who preceded Allen in Afghanistan and resigned his CIA position in November last year over an extramarital affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell.
US President Barack Obama and US Secretary of Defense Leon made no mention of that probe in statements on Tuesday, instead extolling Allen’s 38-year military career. Obama cited Allen’s “extraordinary service” in the Afghan war.
“Today, I met with General John Allen and accepted his request to retire from the military so that he can address health issues within his family,” Obama said in a statement. “I am grateful for the sacrifices made by his family in supporting him during his service.”
Allen, in a statement, did not give details about his decision.
“The reasons for my decision are personal. I did not come to it lightly or quickly, but given the considerations behind it, I recognized in the end it was the only choice I could make,” Allen said.
“While I won’t go into the details, my primary concern is for the health of my wife, who has sacrificed so much for so long,” he said.
He said his wife, Kathy, had stood beside him for more than 35 years and he had spent much time away from her and his two daughters.
“It is now my turn to stand beside them, to be there for them when they need me most,” Allen said.
In an interview with the Washington Post, Allen said he wanted to focus on helping his wife cope with chronic health issues that included an autoimmune disorder.