By Jim Michaels and Tom Vanden Brook, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON - Marine Gen. John Allen, the top commander in Afghanistan, has been cleared in connection with an investigation into e-mail communications between him and a Tampa socialite, a Pentagon spokesman said Tuesday.
Allen was cleared following an extensive investigation by the Pentagon's inspector general's office, said Pentagon spokesman George Little in a statement.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta "has complete confidence in the continued leadership of General Allen, who is serving with distinction in Afghanistan," Little's statement said.
Allen is scheduled to complete his tour as commander in Afghanistan next month. He had been nominated to be NATO commander in Europe, but the nomination had been placed on hold pending the investigation's outcome.
The investigation was prompted in the wake of the resignation of David Petraeus as CIA director. He admitted to an affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell. Broadwell allegedly sent threatening e-mails to Jill Kelley, the Tampa socialite.
That investigation uncovered communications between Kelley and Allen.
Kelley is the wife of a Tampa surgeon who developed close connections with the military and helped develop community support for the armed forces in Tampa, home to Central Command, which oversees the war in Afghanistan.
The FBI, determining no federal laws had been broken, turned over the investigation of the e-mails to the Pentagon's inspector general. Allen had maintained that he had not engaged in any wrongdoing.
Allen has been chosen to take over command of all NATO forces and the military's European Command. However, Panetta said hearings would be postponed until the inspector general's investigation was completed.
Allen is a well regarded officer who helped encourage and solidify a tribal revolt against al-Qaeda in western Iraq in 2007. The Awakening, as it was known, helped turn the tide of war in Iraq.
"Everywhere we have seen failure either in our own experience in Anbar or failure in Iraq it has generally been because we dismissed the role of the tribes and the sheiks," Allen said during an interview in 2007.
In Afghanistan, Allen presided over a surge of forces that helped quell violence in southern Afghanistan and since has managed the reduction of surge forces as the United States begins transitioning security responsibilities to Afghan security forces.