U.S. defense officials say the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General John Allen, is under investigation - in a case that officials say may be linked to the sex scandal that forced CIA Director David Petraeus to resign last week.
Senior defense officials say General John Allen, head of the International Security Assistance Force, ISAF, is under investigation for allegedly sending inappropriate messages to Jill Kelley, a woman linked to the investigation of David Petraeus.
Petraeus resigned as head of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) after it was disclosed that he had an extramarital affair with a woman identified as his biographer, Paula Broadwell.
Officials did not discuss details of how Allen may be linked to the case of Petraeus.
Kelley’s name has come up in the Petraeus investigation after reports said she told the FBI she had received harassing e-mails that were later traced to Broadwell.
Officials announced the investigation of Allen to reporters accompanying Defense Secretary Leon Panetta aboard a U.S. military aircraft en route to Australia. An official says there is a "distinct possibility" that the probe is connected to the Petraeus investigation.
Pentagon spokesman George Little read a statement from Panetta, saying the Federal Bureau of Investigation has referred the matter to the Defense Department’s inspector general.
"While the matter is under investigation and before the facts are determined, General Allen will remain Commander of ISAF," said Little. "His leadership has been instrumental in achieving the significant progress that ISAF, working alongside our Afghan partners, has made in bringing greater security to the Afghan people and in ensuring that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for terrorists. General Allen is entitled to due process in this matter."
Allen had been selected to head the U.S. European Command.
That nomination may now be in question. Allen’s Senate confirmation hearing was scheduled for Thursday, but Panetta, in consultation with President Barack Obama, has asked to put Allen’s nomination on hold pending the investigation.
Investigators will go through 20,000 to 30,000 pages of e-mails and other documents. Officials did not give any details of what the messages contain and did not characterize the type of relationship that may have existed between Allen and Kelley.
Allen denies any wrongdoing in the matter.
On his flight to Australia hours before announcing the investigation of General Allen, Defense Secretary Panetta, who once served as CIA director, on Monday expressed regret about the Petraeus case.
"It was a very sad situation to have a distinguished career like that end in this manner and my heart obviously goes out to him and his family, but I think he took the right step," said Panetta. "And, I think it’s important when you’re director of the CIA with all the challenges that face you in that position that personal integrity comes first and foremost."
The investigations have overshadowed the start of Panetta’s visit to Australia and Southeast Asia this week.
Panetta is joining Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and others in Perth for meetings with Australia’s leaders to boost cooperation, including the posting of 250 U.S. Marines in the country on a rotational basis.
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