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US military chairman backs Afghanistan commander

WASHINGTON: The top US military officer said on Thursday he was confident that General John Allen would be promoted to NATO supreme commander in Europe despite his being linked to a sex scandal.
Allen, the top US commander in Afghanistan, is currently under investigation over thousands of e-mails exchanged with the woman who inadvertently led the FBI to CIA director David Petraeus’s mistress, leading to his resignation.
US President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta have expressed confidence in Allen, but his nomination to become the next NATO supreme allied commander has been put on hold pending the investigation.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, the highest-ranking US military officer, said he “absolutely had confidence” in Allen’s ability to continue directing the country’s longest-running war.
“I asked him if he thought, in the context of this additional stress in his life, if he would be affected by it and he assured me that he was ready, willing and able to continue in command,” Dempsey said in a report posted on the Defense Department’s website.
“I absolutely have confidence in his ability to do that,” he said in an interview with the Pentagon’s American Forces Press Service.
“We have John Allen scheduled to become the (European Command) commander, and I wouldn’t want him to miss that opportunity unless there is reason for that to happen,” Dempsey said.
“I don’t see that at this point, but I see this investigation and how long it could take affecting that.”
Pentagon officials said Allen, who is married, exchanged 20,000 to 30,000 e-mails — some of which may have been “inappropriate” — with Jill Kelley, a married Tampa socialite who was friends with top generals and their families.
Earlier this year Kelley reported receiving threatening e-mails, which led FBI investigators to married army reservist Paula Broadwell and uncovered her affair with Petraeus, who is also married.
Allen denies any sexual liaison with Kelley, but the volume of e-mails, some of which is reported to be “flirtatious,” could amount to a breach of military rules on the part of the four-star Marine general.