If anyone felt there weren’t enough twists in the Petraeus scandal, this should do it: General John Allen, the top American and NATO commander in Afghanistan, is under investigation for allegedly engaging in “inappropriate communications” with Jill Kelley, the married Tampa mother said to be the target of somewhat harassing e-mails from Petraeus’s mistress Paula Broadwell. Early on Tuesday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta revealed that he’s ordered a Pentagon investigation of Allen involving between 20,000 and 30,000 pages of communication and “flirtatious” e-mails between Allen and Kelley, from the years 2010 to 2012.
According to the Washington Post, which quotes an anonymous senior official, the personal messages include “a few hundred e-mails over a couple of years … most of them were about routine stuff.” While Allen did sometimes refer to Kelley as “sweetheart,” it was in a platonic way, the source insists. “He’s never been alone with her,” the official said. “Did he have an affair? No.”
“He’s embarrassed by this,” the official added. “But there’s no there there.” What is there: “at least one e-mail about Kelley [to General Allen] from an unidentified account that eventually was traced to Paula Broadwell, a former Army officer who was Petraeus’s biographer and, it turns out, his mistress.”
Panetta would not comment on whether they’re looking into a possible affair, the leaking of classified information, or how Allen managed to send so many e-mails while ostensibly running a war, but according to a source, “Gen. Allen disputes that he has engaged in any wrongdoing in this matter.”
Panetta said the FBI only made him aware of the situation on Sunday, and after consulting with President Obama he’s decided to let Allen, a four-star Marine general, continue commanding forces in Afghanistan. However, his nomination to be commander of American forces in Europe and the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO has been put on hold during the investigation, and his testimony at the Senate confirmation hearing scheduled for Thursday has been canceled.
Allen has been in Afghanistan since July 2011, but before that he lived in Tampa while working under Petraeus as the deputy commander for Central Command. Previously, Kelley, MacDill Air Force Base’s “unpaid social liaison,” appeared to be the only person in the Petraeus scandal who wasn’t accused of any unseemly behavior. But her decision to assemble a high-powered legal/PR team, who’ve worked with Kobe Bryant, John Edwards, and Bill Clinton during his impeachment trial, suddenly makes more sense.
This post has been updated throughout.