Petraeus scandal widens, snares U.S. commander in Afghanistan

Tue Nov 13, 2012 5:06pm EST
 

By David Alexander and Phil Stewart

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The scandal involving former CIA Director David Petraeus widened on Tuesday as U.S. defense officials said they were looking into "flirtatious" e-mails between General John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, and a woman at the center of the affair.

Defense Department officials said they were sifting through 30,000 pages of email and other communications between Allen and Jill Kelley, a Florida socialite whose complaints about harassing messages led to the discovery of Petraeus' affair with his biographer.

The revelation threatens to fell another of the U.S. military's biggest names after Petraeus' surprise resignation last week. It also complicates President Barack Obama's efforts to wind down the war in Afghanistan and reorganize his national security team following his re-election.

A senior defense official told Reuters the emails between Allen and Kelley were seen as potentially inappropriate because they were "flirtatious" in nature, not because they dealt with sensitive information. Allen has denied that the two had a sexual relationship, officials said on condition of anonymity.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Allen, a four-star Marine Corps general, would stay in his job for the time being, and the White House said Obama still had faith in Allen's ability to command U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

But asked how Obama saw the unfolding scandal at a time when his priorities include impending "fiscal cliff," Press Secretary Jay Carney said: "I certainly wouldn't call it welcome."

Obama suspended plans to transfer Allen to Europe, where he was to be the top commander of U.S. and allied forces in the region.

Both Allen and the official due to replace him in Afghanistan, Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate before they can take their new posts in February.   Continued...

 
A combination photo shows CIA Director David Petraeus speaking on Capitol Hill in Washington on January 31, 2012 and U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Gen. John Allen arriving to testify on Capitol Hill in Washington June 28, 2011. The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General John Allen, is under investigation for alleged inappropriate communication with a woman at the center of the scandal involving former CIA Director David Petraeus, a senior U.S. defense official said on November 13, 2012. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/Yuri Gripas/Files