Marine Gen. John R. Allen in May. (Haraz N. Ghanbari / Associated…)
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon inspector general has cleared the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan of allegations that he sent inappropriate emails to a Florida woman who was also involved in the scandal that led to CIA Director David H. Petraeus' resignation.
The inspector general determined that Marine Gen. John R. Allen's emails to Jill Kelley, a married Tampa socialite with close ties to several senior military officers, did not constitute professional misconduct, a spokeswoman for the office said.
"We confirm that the investigation has been concluded and that we did not substantiate the allegations of misconduct," said Bridget Serchak, the spokeswoman. The finding was reached Friday and confirmed publicly Tuesday.
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta "was pleased to learn that allegations of professional misconduct were not substantiated by the investigation," Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said in a statement. "The secretary has complete confidence in the continued leadership of Gen. Allen, who is serving with distinction in Afghanistan."
Panetta ordered the investigation in November after the FBI provided the Pentagon with what officials said were voluminous emails between Allen and Kelley. At the time, Pentagon officials characterized the emails as "potentially inappropriate" and in some cases "flirtatious," but they refused to disclose the contents.
Investigators focused on about 60 to 70 emails, according to one official, who said some of the language was "perhaps overly familiar" but not inappropriate.
Kelley, who is married to a Tampa doctor, and Allen denied having an improper relationship, but the investigation led the White House to put on hold plans to nominate him to be supreme allied commander in Europe, the senior military officer at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
The White House has not decided whether the nomination will proceed. Allen is stepping down as commander in Afghanistan next month and, if not nominated for another four-star command, would have to retire.
The messages came to light last year during an FBI investigation that revealed Petraeus and his biographer, Paula Broadwell, were having an affair. Kelley, who threw parties for Petraeus and other top officers when they were assigned to the U.S. Central Command headquarters in Tampa, had gone to the FBI after receiving harassing emails.
The FBI concluded that Broadwell had sent the anonymous emails to Kelley, for reasons that remain unclear. The affair led Petraeus to resign as CIA director in November.
Kelley is known among officers at the U.S. Central Command for hosting social events and for forging social ties with top commanders in Tampa. Allen was deputy head of Central Command before taking charge in Afghanistan last year.
Kelley said in an interview published Tuesday on the Daily Beast website that the emails from Broadwell contained threats and blackmail and extortion demands, but that they did not warn her to stay away from Petraeus, as has been previously reported.