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Top U.S. commander in Afghanistan cleared in Pentagon inquiry

by FP Staff  Jan 23, 2013 06:00 IST

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan has been cleared by a Pentagon inquiry into potentially inappropriate email communications with a Florida socialite, a senior U.S. official said, likely resurrecting his nomination to the military's top job in Europe.

Marine General John Allen was placed under investigation in November over email exchanges with one of the women at the center of the scandal that forced David Petraeus to resign as CIA director.

Allen had strongly denied any wrongdoing and President Barack Obama kept him in his job despite the inquiry, expressing confidence in his ability to command the approximately 66,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

But the matter prompted Obama to put Allen's nomination on hold to become the next head of U.S. European Command and Supreme Allied Commander Europe. Allen had been due to face a Senate confirmation hearing in mid-November.

The inquiry centered on emails between Allen and Jill Kelley, a Tampa resident who knew Allen when he served as the No. 2 officer at the U.S. military's Tampa-based Central Command from July 2008 to June 2011.

Kelley told the FBI she had received anonymous harassing emails about Petraeus, who was previously the head of U.S. Central Command and had Allen's job in Afghanistan before moving to the CIA.

The FBI investigation uncovered an extramarital affair between Petraeus and his biographer, Paula Broadwell, and the subsequent investigation ensnared Allen.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Sandra Maler and Stacey Joyce)