U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the Pentagon was justified in investigating e-mails sent by Marine Corps General John R. Allen to a Florida woman even as the U.S.’ top officer today said Allen may still be promoted to head NATO’s military forces.
“I thought it was important to refer” the Allen case to the inspector general “in order to determine what the facts are here,” Panetta said at briefing in Bangkok where he’s visiting.
Panetta directed the Pentagon inspector general to investigate the case when the Federal Bureau of Investigation notified the department about e-mails between Allen, who heads allied forces in Afghanistan, and Jill Kelley, the Florida woman whose complaints led to CIA director David Petraeus’s resignation.
Earlier today General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told American Forces Press Service that Allen’s nomination to serve as NATO Supreme Allied Commander is not in danger.
“We have John Allen scheduled to become (European Command) commander, and I wouldn’t want him to miss that opportunity unless there is reason for that to happen,” the press service, which is an arm of the U.S. military, quoted Dempsey as saying. “I don’t see that at this point, but I see this investigation and how long it could take affecting that.”
President Barack Obama has nominated Allen to become the head of the U.S. European Command as well as head of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s military forces. Panetta has asked Congress to delay Allen’s confirmation until the probe is completed. Obama has said he has “faith in General Allen.”
Asked if the e-mails between Allen and Kelley were sexually explicit in nature, Panetta said, “I don’t want to characterize the communication, and I don’t want to do anything that” will affect the probe. “I’ve tremendous confidence in General Allen and in his ability and his leadership. I don’t think anyone ought to jump to conclusions.”
Allen “intends to fully cooperate” with the inspector general’s investigation and has directed his staff to do so as well, according to a statement from his lawyer, Marine Colonel John Baker.
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