Such friendships among senior military commanders and prominent local community leaders are common at any base, a relationship where the officers invite local people to exclusive military events and functions, and the invitees respond by providing private funding to support troops with everything from morale-boosting “Welcome Home” parades to assistance for injured combat veterans.
Petraeus aides say Jill Kelley took it to another level, winning the title of “honorary ambassador” from the countries involved in the Afghan war for her extensive entertaining at her home on behalf of the command, throwing parties that raised her social status in Tampa through the reflected glow of the four-star general in attendance.
Petraeus even honored Kelley and her husband with an award given to them in a special ceremony at the Pentagon just before he left the military for his post at the CIA, an aide said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment on the matter publicly.
White House spokesman Jay Carney, employing understatement, was asked about the revelations involving Allen and said Obama “wouldn’t call it welcome” news. Carney described Obama as “surprised” by the earlier news about Petraeus.
As he prepares for a second term, the president has hoped to run a methodical transition process, with the goal of keeping many Cabinet members and other high-ranking officials in their posts until successors are confirmed, or at least nominated.
Petraeus’ resignation has disrupted those plans, leaving Obama with an immediate vacancy to fill and raising questions about how much other immediate shake-up the national security team can handle.
National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said Obama put Allen’s nomination on hold at the request of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. The general succeeded Petraeus as the top American commander in Afghanistan in July 2011, and has been working with Panetta on how best to pace the withdrawal of U.S. troops.