Asia

David Petraeus CIA scandal engulfs US Gen John Allen

  • 13 November 2012
  • From the section Asia
April 2011 file picture of David Petraeus (L) and Gen John Allen at the White House
Image caption Gen Petraeus and Gen Allen both served in Tampa, Florida, home to US Central Command

One of the most senior generals in the US military has been linked to a woman involved in the downfall of CIA Director David Petraeus.

Afghanistan commander Gen John Allen is being probed amid reports he sent thousands of "inappropriate" emails to Florida socialite Jill Kelley.

Harassment complaints by Mrs Kelley led the FBI to discover an affair between the CIA chief and his biographer.

David Petraeus resigned on Friday. Gen Allen says he has done nothing wrong.

Currently commanding 68,000 US troops in Afghanistan, Gen Allen was due to face a confirmation hearing in the US Senate on Thursday for his new role as supreme commander of Nato forces in Europe.

That hearing has now been suspended at the request of Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, a spokesman said.

David Petraeus, who preceded Gen Allen as head of US forces in Afghanistan, resigned as head of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) over his affair with biographer Paula Broadwell, 40.

In a statement, Mr Panetta said that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) referred the Gen Allen issue to the Pentagon on Sunday. The defence secretary, currently in Australia, then ordered an investigation.

He has encouraged the US Senate to act quickly on approving Gen Allen's successor in Afghanistan, Gen Joseph Dunford.

Mr Panetta praised the Gen Allen's work in Afghanistan, saying his leadership had ensured "significant progress" in improving security for Afghans.

Gen Petraeus had been due to testify before a closed-door congressional committee meeting about the 11 September 2012 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed the ambassador and three other Americans.

Acting CIA director Michael Morell will testify in his place on Thursday, although Gen Petraeus may be called at a later date.

FBI officials are scheduled to brief the Senate and House intelligence committees on Tuesday about the case, but Mr Panetta has criticised the FBI for not informing members of US congressional committees.

FBI briefing

The widening of the Petraeus affair increases the focus not only on Gen Allen but on the woman he is alleged to have exchanged emails with.

Investigators are reported to have found 20-30,000 pages of documents, many of them emails between Gen Allen and Jill Kelley, 37, a married woman from Tampa, Florida.

A senior defence official would not say whether they involved sexual matters or whether they are thought to include unauthorised disclosures of classified information, the Associated Press reports.

Mrs Kelley had already been named in the Petraeus scandal after she told the FBI early in the summer she had received anonymous harassing emails.

She allegedly reported the emails to an FBI agent, who has not been named. That man launched the investigation but was not allowed to work on it because of concerns that he was personally involved with the case.

The agent allegedly sent a shirtless photo of himself to Mrs Kelley before she contacted him about the anonymous emails, the Wall Street Journal reports.

He also appeared to become obsessed with the case, and eventually contacted a member of Congress about it, the newspaper adds.

When the FBI investigated, it traced the emails to Paula Broadwell, bringing to light her affair with Gen Petraeus.

Late on Monday the FBI carried out a search of Mrs Broadwell's home in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Between eight and 10 agents began a search, which Mrs Broadwell is said to have consented to, around 21:00 local time (02:00 GMT) and continued for about four hours, the Charlotte Observer reports.

They were seen leaving the house with desktop computers, a printer, a briefcase and about cardboard boxes.

Mrs Kelley is married to a prominent cancer specialist in the Tampa area and works as a volunteer with wounded veterans and military families at the MacDill Air Force Base in the city.

The base is headquarters of the US Central Command, formerly headed by David Petraeus.

She is a family friend of him and his wife Holly, but no evidence has emerged that she ever had an affair with the CIA director.

Gen Allen, a four-star Marine general, succeeded Gen Petraeus as the top American commander in Afghanistan in July 2011.

He was deputy commander of Central Command before taking over in Afghanistan. He is also a veteran of the Iraq war.

Gen Petraeus's affair with Mrs Broadwell, who co-wrote a biography of the general, began following his retirement from the army and about two months after he became director of the CIA. He said it ended about four months ago.

Gen Petraeus joined the CIA in September 2011 after heading international forces in Iraq and later in Afghanistan.

The BBC's Bilal Sarwary, in Kabul, says the scandal is making headlines and has shocked many people in Afghanistan, where Gen Allen had built good relations with leaders and commanders.

Some Afghan officials are asking how he found time to write thousands of emails when he was in charge of running a war, our correspondent says.