By Jeremy Herb - 11/13/12 07:15 AM EST
The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen, is under investigation for “potentially inappropriate” communications with the woman who sparked the inquiry that led to former CIA Director David Petraeus’s resignation, a senior defense official said Tuesday.
The FBI provided the Pentagon with 20,000 to 30,000 pages of potentially inappropriate communications between Allen and Jill Kelley, the woman who went to the FBI this summer after receiving threatening emails, a senior defense official said. The FBI investigation into those harassing emails ultimately uncovered the affair between Petraeus and his biographer, Paula Broadwell.
While Allen will remain U.S. commander in Afghanistan as the matter is under investigation, Panetta said he has requested the Senate “act promptly” to confirm his successor, Gen. Joseph Dunford, who was supposed to take over next year.
Allen’s own nomination to become NATO Supreme Allied Commander-Europe and head of U.S. European Command has been put on hold by President Obama, Panetta said.
A senior defense official said Allen denies any wrongdoing.
But Allen's entanglement in the FBI investigation that led to Petraeus’s downfall adds a new twist to a scandal that has enveloped Washington since Petraeus unexpectedly resigned Friday.
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) on Tuesday said that the broadening investigation was a “critical moment for our military.” Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, cautioned his colleagues to “let these investigations go forward to try to figure out what we have here.”
But lawmakers have been critical of the FBI’s handling of the matter, with Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Pete King (R-N.Y.) both saying they did not learn about the months-long probe until Friday.
The FBI investigation began earlier this summer when Kelley, who worked as an unpaid liaison at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida, reportedly went to the FBI about harassing emails. Those emails were allegedly sent by Broadwell, and the investigation into her email account eventually revealed the affair between Broadwell and Petraeus.
It’s unclear how the FBI’s investigation discovered the emails between Kelley and Allen, and the nature of the emails between the two was not revealed Tuesday.
FBI agents searched Broadwell's North Carolina home on Monday night, removing papers and computer equipment for further investigation. Reports said Broadwell had consented to the FBI search.
Allen is a four-star general who took over for Petraeus as head of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan in 2011.
Allen and Dunford were both scheduled to testify at a Senate Armed Services confirmation hearing Thursday, but it’s unlikely that Allen will now testify.
—This story was updated at 8:38 a.m.