Situation Report

More girl trouble: sex scandal expands to include ISAF commander Allen

More girl trouble: sex scandal expands to include ISAF commander Allen

The Petraeus sex scandal has expanded to include ISAF Commander Allen. In another jolt to the unfolding story, the Pentagon said it was investigating one of its own, Gen. John Allen, the top commander in Afghanistan, after FBI investigators stumbled on tens of thousands of pages of "potentially inappropriate" e-mails between Allen and Jill Kelley, the Tampa socialite whose connection to Gen. David Petraeus contributed to his resignation from the CIA on Friday. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta put Allen’s nomination on hold to become the storied Supreme Allied Commander of Europe, a job first held by Dwight Eisenhower, to allow the investigation to move forward.

Allen, who is in Washington to prepare for what was to be his nomination hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday, will remain commander of ISAF. But now the hearing will go forward with just the man nominated to succeed him, Gen. Joseph Dunford, and Panetta has asked the Senate to act on his nomination "promptly." An AP report quotes a defense official: "Gen. Allen disputes that he has engaged in any wrongdoing in this matter." And while Pentagon officials clearly believed there was enough there to warrant an investigation, Panetta stressed that Allen, who is married, "is entitled to due process in this matter."

"[Allen’s] 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," Panetta said in a statement read to reporters on his plane, as the secretary headed to Asia.

It was an amazing new wrinkle in a story that has unfolded quickly and has consumed Washington and the national security world as one general seen as having unimpeachable integrity — and potentially now two — are felled by inappropriate conduct with other women. And it threatened to dominate news cycles for the days to come, even as President Obama planned his own trip to Asia and negotiations between the White House and Congress over defense spending had begun here at home.

The story about Allen first broke aboard Panetta’s plane on its way to Australia. The FBI had informed the Pentagon of the communications between Allen and Kelley on Sunday evening, according to reporters traveling with the secretary. It is unclear to what degree the e-mails or whatever relationship there is between Allen and Kelley related to the connection between Petraeus and Kelley, which friends of Petraeus have told Situation Report was not a sexual relationship. Kelley is the woman who allegedly received threatening e-mails from Petraeus biographer Paula Broadwell, the woman with whom Petraeus was having an extramarital affair that precipitated his resignation from the CIA on Friday. Defense officials would not say if Allen had divulged classified information in the e-mails or if Allen had used his work e-mail for any of the correspondence between him and Kelley. NBC reported that Allen was first informed of the investigation by Gen. Marty Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Even if the investigation finds Allen did nothing wrong, it throws a crowbar into Obama’s national security lineup and is sending the Pentagon’s GOMOs (the General Officer Management Offices) into a tailspin. 

An Allen friend tells Situation Report: "I would be more surprised than anyone if anything untoward came out of this investigation." 

Welcome to the Tuesday edition of Situation Report, where the bleary eyes definitely widened when we picked up our phone early this morning. Follow me @glubold. Or hit me anytime at gordon.lubold@foreignpolicy.com. And sign up for Situation Report here: http://bit.ly/NCN9uN or just send me an e-mail and I’ll put you on the list.

Reporters were asleep after Panetta had given the usual pre-trip brief in flight, from Honolulu to Perth, in which he was asked about Asia rebalance, sequester, and the Petraeus matter. Hours later, assistant press secretary Carl Woog and Panetta’s chief of staff, Jeremy Bash, woke them up, told them to get ready, and that press secretary George Little had an important statement to read. "Everyone hurriedly grabbed their tape recorders, but they wouldn’t tell us what it was about. The press corps was stunned by the news about General Allen," one told Situation Report.

Reporters on a plane: WaPo’s Whitlock, NYT’s Bumiller, Reuters’ Stewart, AP’s Burns, Bloomberg’s Ratnam, VOA’s Ramirez, AFP’s Loeb and De Luce, Stars and Stripes’ Hlad. 

Drinking from the fire hose: Panetta’s new top military aide, Lt. Gen. Tom Waldhauser, a Marine, is on his first solo trip with Panetta.

Before Allen became ISAF commander, he kept a low profile as deputy commander of U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Fla., as he quietly developed war plans for Iran. Whatever relationship there is between him and Kelley would likely have begun during his three years in Tampa, between 2008 and 2011. Allen, a Naval Academy graduate, was seen as an up-and-comer as a one-star in Iraq’s Anbar province, where he was instrumental in cultivating Sunni sheiks and facilitating the Anbar Awakening beginning in 2006.

Politically astute, smart, and extremely careful with his image, Allen has always been seen as a cerebral commander who had quietly managed his own rise to the top. In August, when we sat with him for an interview, he seemed extremely tired, and aides pointed out that he had been in the job in Afghanistan for 14 months — but had maintained an exhausting schedule at Central Command for three years before that. The job in Europe for which he was nominated, was seen as a reward.

A friend of Situation Report texts: "But does any of this mean that these senior leaders aren’t doing their jobs? That their policies are wrong? That they are not still the best at what they do?"

FP’s interview with Allen in August: http://bit.ly/OWQ1Hv

Allen bio: http://1.usa.gov/PRiEHi

The Washington Post reports that John Kerry is being considered for the Sec-Def job. Panetta, who is expected to step down as early as this winter or as late as this spring, may be replaced by Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) who had been thought to want Secretary of State but who may get bumped by someone closer to the White House – Tom Donilon, the current national security adviser or, more likely, as the paper reports, Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Administration officials described Kerry to the WaPo as a "war hero" whose qualifications for the defense job "included not only his naval service in Vietnam but also his knowledge of the budget and experience in the diplomacy that has increasingly become part of the defense portfolio."

The Democrats’ retention of the Senate, with the election’s net gain of two seats, gives the Democrats the cushion they need to bring Kerry across the river, the WaPo points out.

WaPo: Mike Vickers, now undersecretary of defense for intelligence, has also been mentioned as a possible successor to Petraeus at CIA.

The Fallout

The Rest of the World