Gen. John Allen To Retire, Not Pursue NATO Commander Nomination

Marine Gen. John Allen has decided to retire from the military. The former top commander in Afghanistan, Allen had been nominated by President Obama to become commander of all NATO forces.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block. The Marine general poised to lead all NATO forces has decided to resign. General John Allen served 38 years in the military, including as the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan. But his long career will also be remembered for his peripheral role in a recent scandal. Here's NPR's Tom Bowman.

TOM BOWMAN, BYLINE: General Allen said in a statement his reasons for retiring were personal. While I won't go into details, he wrote in a statement, my primary concern is for the health of my wife, who has sacrificed so much for so long. And he said the greatest honor of his life was commanding U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. President Obama said General Allen has his deep personal appreciation for the 19 months he served in Afghanistan.

Just recently, General Allen talked about one of his achievements, building up the Afghan security forces.

GENERAL JOHN ALLEN: And they're increasingly moving into the lead and they will be in the lead formally across the entire country by the spring of this year.

BOWMAN: Afghanistan's still a work in progress, but Allen did help turn around the war in Iraq. He was an architect in 2006 of the Sunni Awakening. Allen shuttled back and forth between Iraq and Jordan, meeting with Sunni sheiks and convincing them to work with the Iraqi government and against al-Qaida. Those efforts paid off and violence dropped sharply.

But Allen's efforts on the battlefield were overshadowed in the public mind. He was pulled into the scandal that led to the resignation of David Petraeus last year. It all happened when a woman named Jill Kelly reported threatening emails from another woman, Paula Broadwell, Petraeus' biographer. The FBI found that Broadwell was having an affair with Petraeus and the investigation also turned up emails between General Allen and Kelly, a Tampa socialite with ties to the U.S. military command there, where both Allen and Petraeus served.

Allen denied any wrongdoing, was later exonerated, and was expected to become NATO commander in Brussels. Instead, Allen says, he'll return to his native state, Virginia. Tom Bowman, NPR News, Washington.

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