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The top US commander in Afghanistan, General John Allen, is under investigation for alleged inappropriate communication with a woman at the centre of the scandal involving former CIA Director David Petraeus, a senior US defence official said yesterday.
The shocking revelation threatens to fell another of the US military's biggest names and suggests that the scandal involving Petraeus - a former four-star general who had Allen's job in Afghanistan before moving to the CIA last year - could expand much further than previously imagined.
The US official said the FBI uncovered between 20,000 and 30,000 pages of communications - mostly emails and spanning from 2010 to 2012 - between Allen and Jill Kelley, who has been identified as a long-time friend of the Petraeus family and a Tampa, Florida, volunteer social liaison with military families at MacDill Air Force Base.
It was Kelley's complaints about harassing emails from the woman with whom Petraeus had had an affair, Paula Broadwell, that prompted an FBI investigation, ultimately alerting authorities to Petraeus' involvement with Broadwell. Petraeus resigned from his job on Friday.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in a statement given to reporters flying with him to Australia that he had asked that Allen's nomination to be Commander of US European Command and Supreme Allied Commander Europe be delayed "and the president has agreed".
Allen, who is now in Washington, was due to face a Senate confirmation hearing tomorrow, as was his slated successor in Afghanistan, General Joseph Dunford.
The FBI referred the case to the Pentagon on Sunday and Panetta directed the Defense Department's Inspector General to handle the investigation. Panetta informed the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee during the flight to Australia. The House Armed Services Committee was also notified.
The US defense official said that Allen denied any wrongdoing and that Panetta had opted to keep him in his job while the matter was under review.
US officials had said in recent days that their investigation was largely complete.