WASHINGTON (AP) — The sex scandal that felled CIA Director David Petraeus widened yesterday to ensnare the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen, in a suddenly public drama involving a Tampa socialite, a jealous rival, a twin sister in a messy custody dispute and flirty emails.
The improbable story — by turns tragic and silly — could have major consequences, unfolding at a critical time in the Afghan war effort and just as President Barack Obama was hoping for a smooth transition in his national security team.
Obama put a hold on the nomination of Afghan war chief Allen to become the next commander of U.S. European Command as well as the NATO supreme allied commander in Europe after investigators uncovered 20,000-plus pages of documents and emails that involved Allen and Tampa socialite Jill Kelley. Some of the material was characterized as “flirtatious.”
Allen, 58, insisted he’d done nothing wrong and worked to save his imperiled career.
Kelley, 37, who had worked herself into the center of the military social scene in Florida without having any official role, emerged as a central figure in the still-unfolding story that has embroiled two of the nation’s most influential and respected military leaders.
Known as a close friend of retired Gen. Petraeus, Kelley triggered the FBI investigation that led to his downfall as CIA director when she complained about getting anonymous, harassing emails. They turned out to have been written by Petraeus’ mistress, Paula Broadwell, who apparently was jealous of the attention the general paid to Kelley. Petraeus acknowledged the affair and resigned Friday.
In the course of looking into that situation, federal investigators came across what a Pentagon official called “inappropriate communications” between Allen and Kelley, both of them married.
According to one senior U.S. official, the emails between Allen and Kelley were not sexually explicit or seductive but included pet names such as “sweetheart” or “dear.” The official said that while much of the communication — including some from Allen to Kelley — is relatively innocuous, some could be construed as unprofessional and would cause a reasonable person to take notice.