WASHINGTON – The White House said Wednesday it will go ahead with Gen. John Allen's nomination to become commander of NATO forces in Europe, following his exoneration in a Pentagon investigation of questionable email exchanges with a Florida woman linked to the sex scandal that led David Petraeus to resign as CIA director.
If confirmed by the Senate, Allen would succeed Navy Adm. James Stavridis in the NATO post. Allen is due to leave his position as commander of U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan on Feb. 10.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta had put Allen's nomination on hold last November when he directed the Pentagon's inspector general to determine whether Allen's email exchanges with Jill Kelley of Tampa, Fla., amounted to wrongdoing. The emails have not been made public but were said to include flirtatious exchanges that could be judged to be inappropriate.
Allen, in a brief statement through his spokesman, said he was pleased to have been cleared.
Allen said he was glad the Pentagon investigation concluded that "the allegations against him were unsubstantiated" and that he "did not violate the requirement of exemplary conduct or the prohibition against conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman."
The FBI had referred the emails to the Pentagon in the course of its investigation of the Petraeus matter, which included email exchanges between Kelley and Paula Broadwell, who was Petraeus' biographer and later his lover. Allen had maintained from the start of the investigation that he was innocent of any misconduct.
On Tuesday the Pentagon announced that the inspector general had exonerated Allen.
White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters Wednesday that he hopes the Senate will consider Allen's nomination "in a timely manner."
Asked about the Pentagon investigation, Carney said, "That matter is now complete and we welcome its finding."
Associated Press writers Jim Kuhnhenn and Darlene Superville contributed to this report.