WASHINGTON — The Pentagon said Wednesday that the former top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General John Allen, will be given time to rest before his next assignment amid reports claiming that he has decided not to accept an offer to become the next top NATO commander. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta could not confirm if Allen wanted to drop out of the running for the NATO job but said he had advised him to take a break after finishing an arduous stint in Kabul. “I had the opportunity to meet with him yesterday,” said Panetta, at what was likely his last press conference as Pentagon chief. “My recommendation to him was, take your time, you know, be with your family, think about what you need to do. “I think your country will always find a way to make use of your great services, but you’ve got to make the decision as to what you want to do in the future.” Foreign Policy first reported Allen would likely withdraw his name from consideration for the post of NATO’s supreme allied commander. A Pentagon investigation had cleared the four-star general of any wrongdoing in a probe over emails with a Florida socialite who was caught up in the scandal that brought down CIA Director David Petraeus. But an official told Foreign Policy’s “Situation Report” that Allen did not want to subject his family to a highly public nomination process in which senators would be asking him about the emails, the reports said. A Pentagon spokesman said Allen has been given time to rest after completing his assignment. “After 19 months in command in Afghanistan, and many before that spent away from home, Gen. Allen has been offered time to rest and reunite with his family before he turns his attention to his next assignment,” said spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Steven Warren. On Sunday, Allen handed over command of NATO-led forces in Afghanistan to General Joseph Dunford, who will oversee the gradual withdrawal of U.S. combat forces through 2014. Allen’s email exchanges with the Florida woman, Jill Kelley, were revealed during an FBI investigation that exposed an extramarital affair between Petraeus and his biographer, Paula Broadwell.
Petraeus resigned and acknowledged his relationship with Broadwell. Allen, 59, was investigated by the Pentagon’s inspector general over the emails but the probe found he had not exchanged inappropriate messages with Kelley and had not violated the military’s code, which prohibits adultery. The White House had put Allen’s nomination on hold after the scandal broke but the administration has expressed full confidence in his work as commander in Afghanistan. Allen, 59, a Marine Corps officer, took over the commander’s job in Afghanistan from Petraeus in July 2011 after having served as the number two at U.S. Central Command, which oversees forces in the Middle East and Afghanistan. Before that, he commanded troops in Iraq’s Anbar province from 2006-2008.