Nearly four months after he got entangled in the David Petraeus scandal, Gen. John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, is retiring.
The skids had been greased for Allen to become the next commander of NATO forces, but the machinery hit a snag when Allen was forced to explain correspondence involving hundreds of personal e-mails.
The official reason for Allen stepping down, according to the White House, is “so he can address health issues within his family.” There was no elaboration.
When Petraeus, who preceded Allen in Kabul, stepped down as CIA director over his extramarital affair with Paula Broadwell, Allen got snared in the investigative net. Petraeus and Allen had become friendly with Jill Kelley, a socialite in Tampa, where the U.S. Central Command is based.
Media coverage exploded when reports surfaced that Allen had exchanged 30,000 e-mails with Kelley, with some in the press dubbing her the scandal’s “Other Other Woman.” Unnamed administration officials have described the e-mails as flirtatious, but Kelley has told The Daily Beast that they were straightforward letters between friends and that Allen’s wife was copied on many of the messages, which were sent from a joint account that Kelley shares with her husband.
“We’re friends, good friends. His wife and me are good friends. Our children are friends,” Kelley said.
Turns out the initial stories were overblown, as a Pentagon inspector general’s probe confirmed there were only a few hundred e-mails and that Allen had not violated regulations barring conduct unbecoming an officer.
At that point, there seemed no reason for the White House not to proceed with Allen’s nomination as NATO commander, which was put on hold in the wake of the Petraeus scandal.
But the general himself got cold feet. He sent signals last week that he was rethinking the nomination, with NBC reporting that Allen did not want to put his family through the ordeal of a Senate confirmation hearing where the e-mails would undoubtedly be the subject of questioning.
Now he’s decided to leave the military as a way of putting the matter to rest.