WASHINGTON – The Pentagon’s inspector general has cleared the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan of wrongdoing following an investigation into whether he exchanged inappropriate emails with the same Tampa, Florida, socialite involved in the scandal that prompted David Petraeus to resign as CIA director, senior U.S. officials said.
The FBI uncovered messages from Gen. John Allen during its investigation of Petraeus last year. The tenor of some of the emails, which defense officials described as racy and flirtatious, prompted Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to order a formal inquiry.
In a letter sent to Allen on Friday, the inspector general wrote that Allen had not violated military prohibitions against conduct unbecoming an officer, according to the senior U.S. officials. “He was completely exonerated,” one of the officials said.
Allen exchanged the messages with Jill Kelley, 37, who ingratiated herself with several senior officers at the Tampa headquarters of the U.S. Central Command. Kelley’s complaint to the FBI about another set of messages — that were harassing — eventually led to the discovery of an affair between Petraeus and his biographer, Paula Broadwell. The FBI determined that Broadwell, for reasons still not clear, had sent Kelley the harassing emails.
The inspector general’s investigation prompted the White House to place on hold Allen’s nomination to become the supreme allied commander in Europe. Allen is scheduled to relinquish command in Afghanistan early next month, and the Pentagon has not yet requested that the Senate Armed Services Committee reschedule his nomination.
Defense officials have said Panetta’s decision to refer the emails to the inspector was driven by the content of some of the messages and by a desire to show that the Pentagon was not trying to ignore any potential miscount in the wake of the Petraeus scandal.
Although initial reports described the volume of messages between Allen and Kelley as totaling 20,000 to 30,000 printed pages, the two exchanged only a few hundred messages over a multiyear period, one of the U.S. officials said. “Some of the messages are not the sort of things you would print in a family newspaper,” the official said. “But that doesn’t mean he violated military regulations by sending and receiving them.”
Officials close to Allen have long insisted that he did not have a sexual relationship with Kelley. Allen’s partisans said that Kelley was a close friend to Allen and his wife, Kathy.
Many of the messages related to social events or to items Kelley had seen in the news, a senior official close to Allen said. Sometimes she wrote to compliment the general on a television interview, the official said, and sometimes she copied him on a message intended for his wife. “He returns almost every email,” the official said soon after the investigation commenced. “To him, it’s a sign of politeness.”
The frequency of Allen’s communication with Kelley prompted questions about whether his focus on the war was compromised. But Allen’s aides said he generally reads and responds to personal email between midnight and 2 a.m., after most of his subordinates have gone to bed.