Gen. John Allen, caught up and later cleared in a scandal over emails with a Florida socialite, is expected to withdraw from consideration for the job of top NATO commander, according to news reports.
A Pentagon investigation last month cleared Allen of wrongdoing, but three U.S. military officials told NBC on Wednesday that Allen does not want to drag his family through a nomination process in which the emails would almost certainly come up.
Allen has spoken with Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, but he has not yet met with President Barack Obama on the issue, NBC reports.
A U.S. official said that Obama was aware of Allen’s feelings, and they would meet to discuss the nomination in the coming days.
“After 19 months in command in Afghanistan, and many before that spent away from home, Gen. Allen has been offered time to rest and reunite with his family before he turns his attention to his next assignment,” an official on Allen’s staff told NBC.
Allen’s emails with the socialite, Jill Kelley, came to light during the investigation that ultimately brought down CIA director David Petraeus, who confessed to an extramarital affair with another woman.
Allen had been the top American commander in Afghanistan. The White House had said after the Pentagon cleared him of wrongdoing that it would move forward with its nomination of Allen for supreme allied commander of NATO forces in Europe, NBC reports.
Kelley, who acted as a volunteer “social liaison” with military officials at MacDill Air Force Base, inadvertently triggered the investigation that led to Petraeus’ resignation by complaining to the FBI about anonymous emails she received.
FBI agents traced the allegedly threatening emails to Paula Broadwell, Petraeus’ biographer.
Just last weekend, Allen took part in a handover ceremony and passed command of the Afghan mission to Gen. Joseph Dunford, NBC reports.
Allen delivered an emotional speech aimed mostly at the Afghan people and stressed their role in taking over security by mid-year. He said that Afghan forces were defending their own people and allowing the government to serve its citizens.
“This is victory,” Allen said, according to Reuters. “This is what winning looks like.”
After the Pentagon probe last month cleared him of any wrongdoing, the White House announced it would proceed with Allen's nomination as NATO's supreme allied commander in Europe.
Allen is now weighing his options and Panetta, who met with Allen on Tuesday, acknowledged the Marine general had been under tremendous pressure during his 19-month Afghan tour.
"My recommendation to him was: 'Take your time ... be with your family, think about what you need to do," Panetta recounted to reporters. "I think your country will always find a way to make use of your great services, but you've got to make the decision as to what you want to do in the future."
U.S. officials stressed Allen had not made a decision. Panetta also said Allen had not indicated to him whether he was likely to turn down the command post in Europe.
The fact he has not decided about his future, three weeks after the White House indicated it was moving ahead with his nomination, has sparked speculation about his next steps.
"Obviously we have tremendous confidence in him," Panetta said, adding he would do whatever he could to "make sure that he serves this country in whatever capacity he wants to serve this country."
Information from Reuters was used to supplement this report.
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