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Gen. John Allen Pulled Into Petraeus Scandal


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.


And I'm Melissa Block. We begin this hour with the unfolding scandal involving former CIA director David Petraeus. It got more complicated today, with investigators now looking into another senior office, General John Allen. Allen's the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan and he apparently exchanged hundreds of emails with the woman who triggered the investigation into General Petraeus.

NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman is following the story. He joins me now. Tom, my head is spinning. Bring us up to date. What's the latest?

TOM BOWMAN, BYLINE: Well, Melissa, first of all, General Allen was supposed to have his Senate confirmation hearing on Thursday to become commander of U.S. forces in Europe and NATO. That's been cancelled and his nomination has been put on hold. And it's important to note that General Allen is denying he did anything improper and he told the chairman of the joint chiefs, General Martin Dempsey, he did not have an inappropriate relationship.

And that the White House spokesman said today the president still has faith in General Allen. In fact, he'll remain as commander in Afghanistan, but the Pentagon wants the Senate to expedite his successor, General Joe Dunford, who may go over to Afghanistan early.

BLOCK: But back up a bit, Tom, because this is yet another investigation into emails. What's at stake here? What's involved?

BOWMAN: Well, the Pentagon inspector general is looking into emails between General Allen and a woman in Florida who is connected to the Petraeus case. And just to remind everybody, she's Jill Kelley. She's a socialite and a sort of a social ambassador to the military at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, where both General Allen and General Petraeus served in recent years.

And I'm told that Jill Kelley's also close friends with Allen's wife, Kathy.

BLOCK: And to clarify here, it was Jill Kelley who originally contacted the FBI, right, about getting these harassing emails that turned out to be from Paula Broadwell, who was General Petraeus' mistress. The question here now is, is there anything improper in the email exchanges between Jill Kelley and General Allen?

BOWMAN: Well, it's important to stress, at this point, we don't know for sure. There's been an assumption of a romantic relationship, but we're hearing it may not be true. There were apparently times in the email exchanges where he addressed Jill Kelley as sweetheart, which might have raised red flags. But that also might be innocent. He's from Virginia. This might be a quaint way of addressing her.

And also reports of 20,000 to 30,000 pages of emails. That might be misleading because of printouts, people being copied on these emails. Those familiar with this say we're talking a couple of hundred emails over three years or so. And again, he's denied any affair, so we really need to avoid jumping to any conclusions at this point.

BLOCK: Now, Tom, General Allen has been in command in Afghanistan for a little over a year now. What can you tell us about him?

BOWMAN: Well, he's a very cerebral guy. He gained fame in military circles during his Iraq service, not as a combat leader, but working with what became known as the Sunni Awakening, getting local Sunni sheikhs to break with al-Qaida and work with the Americans and the Iraqi government. By all accounts, he's upstanding. He's a naval academy grad who said if he didn't go into the military, he would've become an archeologist. He was a fan of Gertrude Bell, the British Arabist.

BLOCK: Huh. Why do you think, Tom, what have you heard? Why is the Pentagon looking into these emails?

BOWMAN: Well, first of all, the volume of email traffic and also its connection to the Petraeus case. And Petraeus, of course, resigned over his affair. And also, we're talking about, you know, there's a concern there might be scheduling information in here, people going - leaving MacDill Air Force base, going on trips, there may be some sensitive information in these emails.

BLOCK: Okay. NPR Pentagon correspondent, Tom Bowman. Tom, thanks.

BOWMAN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.