US & Canada

General John Allen cleared over 'inappropriate' emails

US General John Allen on 10 October 2012
Image caption Gen John Allen's nomination to the top Nato position in Europe has been placed on hold

The top US general in Afghanistan, General John Allen, has been cleared of misconduct by the Pentagon for emails sent to Florida socialite Jill Kelley.

His nomination to head Nato commander in Europe had been put on hold amid reports the emails were inappropriate.

Gen Allen is due to relinquish command of his Afghanistan post in February.

Harassment complaints by Mrs Kelley led the FBI to unmask an affair between CIA chief David Petraeus and his biographer. He later resigned.

A spokesman for Gen Allen said the general was "obviously pleased" to be cleared of the charges he had violated the prohibition against conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman.

"From the outset, the general placed his faith in - and fully supported - the investigative process," Maj David Nevers said.

Defence officials told the Associated Press that the White House had not decided whether to go forward with Gen Allen's nomination to Supreme Allied Commander in Europe.

Pentagon spokesman George Little said the defence department "was pleased to learn that allegations of professional misconduct were not substantiated", adding that Defence Secretary Leon Panetta had "complete confidence in the continued leadership" of Gen Allen.

Ethics review

The emails first came to light as part of a wider investigation into email harassment against Mrs Kelley, who knew both Gen Allen and Mr Petraeus, a former general, through social contacts on the Florida military base where US Central Command is headquartered.

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

Earlier reports suggested Gen Allen had exchanged thousands of emails, some described as inappropriate and flirtatious, with Mrs Kelley.

The Afghanistan commander had also written a letter to a judge in support of Mrs Kelley's twin sister in a messy child custody dispute.

After being contacted by the FBI, Mr Panetta announced the inquiry into Gen Allen and put the commander's nomination on hold.

Defence officials told the Washington Post that the full investigation had shown that there were in fact only several hundred emails exchanged between Gen Allen and Mrs Kelley, mostly notes on current news topics and social matters or compliments on Gen Allen's television interviews.

"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."

In addition to the inquiry into Gen Allen, Mr Panetta asked the Joint Chiefs of Staff to review ethics training after a series of misconduct cases.

Gen Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, has not released the results of his review.

But he said he found that ethics training for senior leaders should begin earlier in an officer's career and be reinforced more frequently.