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Pentagon Probes 'Inappropriate' Emails By Gen. Allen


It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm Renee Montagne. Early this morning, the Pentagon announced that another top official may be entangled in the scandal that prompted the resignation of CIA director David Petraeus. It is the officer who succeeded Petraeus as commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan - General John Allen. General Allen is now being investigated by the Pentagon, for his interactions with a woman who is linked to the extramarital affair that led to Petraeus' downfall.

For the latest on this very complicated story, we're joined by NPR's Pentagon correspondent, Tom Bowman. Good morning.

TOM BOWMAN, BYLINE: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Let's begin to break this down. What kinds of interactions are we talking about, here?

BOWMAN: Well, we're talking about 20,000 to 30,000 pages of emails, and other documents, that show inappropriate communications between General Allen and a woman named Jill Kelley. Now, if you remember, we first heard about Jill Kelley last week. She's the woman who complained about receiving threatening emails. That prompted an FBI investigation. That led to the discovery that CIA Director David Petraeus had been having an affair with a woman named Paula Broadwell. And these harassing emails to Jill Kelley, came from Paula Broadwell. She believed that Jill Kelley was a rival for the affections of David Petraeus.

MONTAGNE: Yes, apparently. But then, what kinds of interactions did John Allen have? The 20,000 to 30,000 pages of emails - which is an astonishing number - what might they have contained?

BOWMAN: You know, it is an astounding number of - you know, 20- to 30,000 pages of emails and communications. We don't know what's in them; whether they disclose classified information, or have indications of a personal relationship. And that would be a violation of military law.

MONTAGNE: So how did this new information come out?

BOWMAN: Well, just overnight, the Pentagon put out a release about this, and they said they'd heard about it from the FBI on Sunday; and that they had some information involving General John Allen, and the department should take a look into this. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who's traveling this week to Australia and Asia, he was in the air when he was notified about this. He looked at all of this, called the president, and ordered an immediate investigation by the Pentagon.

MONTAGNE: And how are all of these people connected, though?

BOWMAN: Well, the connection is MacDill Air Force Base, down in Tampa. Jill Kelley is a Tampa resident; a socialite. She does volunteer work at MacDill Air Force Base. And General David Petraeus was head of Central Command, based at MacDill Air Force Base; and General John Allen was his deputy. So that's how they're all connected.

MONTAGNE: This all comes at a delicate time for the military. It's working to withdraw troops from Afghanistan; and it's preparing for a change of command there because General Allen has been on track to be promoted to supreme allied commander of NATO, in Europe. What now?

BOWMAN: Well, right now, his nomination has been put on hold - to command all U.S. forces in Europe, and also NATO forces. And also, he was in town this week for his confirmation hearing. That's been put on hold. And Secretary Panetta has suggested that the Senate - sort of move quickly on Allen's replacement in Afghanistan, General Joe Dunford, also - a Marine general.

And the other thing is, at this time, General Allen was working on the way ahead in Afghanistan. There are now 68,000 U.S. troops there. He was looking at a drawdown plan for those troops - because they have two more years of combat. The combat mission ends in 2014; that's when the Afghans are supposed to take full responsibility for their own security. But beyond 2014, there's a security agreement with the United States. So there will be thousands of U.S. troops there after 2014 - training Afghan troops, working - counterterror mission. Allen was working on a plan on that as well; how many troops would be needed. So it's a very sensitive time for all of this to happen.

MONTAGNE: And Tom, covering the Pentagon, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, you know both of these men. How surprising are these revelations to you?

BOWMAN: I think I'm more surprised by this than almost anything I've seen in my career. Both are very cautious and careful senior officers. They are very disciplined. It's just - it's mind-boggling.

MONTAGNE: Tom, thanks very much.

BOWMAN: You're welcome, Renee.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Tom Bowman. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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