By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service
ABOARD A MILITARY AIRCRAFT, Nov. 13, 2012 – The Defense Department inspector general has opened an investigation of Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said today in a statement.
The statement said the FBI referred a matter involving Allen to the Defense Department on Nov. 11.
Today, Panetta directed that the matter be referred to the DOD IG for investigation and informed the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. The House Armed Services Committee also has been notified, he said.
“While the matter is under investigation and before the facts are determined, General Allen will remain ISAF commander,” the secretary said.
“His leadership has been instrumental in achieving the significant progress that ISAF, working alongside our Afghan partners, has made in bringing greater security to the Afghan people,” Panetta added, “and in ensuring that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for terrorists. He is entitled to due process in this matter.”
Allen took over as ISAF commander and commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan in July 2011. President Barack Obama recently nominated him to succeed Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis as commander of U.S. European Command and as NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe.
Obama also nominated Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., now assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, to succeed Allen in Afghanistan. Panetta said he has asked the president, who has agreed, to put Allen’s nomination on hold until the relevant facts are determined.
The secretary also said he has asked the ranking members of the Senate Armed Services Committee – Sen. Carl Levin, a Democrat from Michigan, and Sen. John McCain, a Republican from Arizona -- that they delay a confirmation hearing scheduled for Nov. 15 on Allen’s pending nomination.
“I respectfully requested that the Senate act promptly on [Dunford’s] nomination,” Panetta added.
The secretary is traveling in the Asia-Pacific region.