General Allen retires: ‘It’s time to take care of my family’

Marine General John R. Allen

From Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Washington Post:  Marine Gen. John R. Allen, the longest-serving leader of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, asked President Obama on Tuesday morning to accept his retirement from the military because his wife is seriously ill, a move that nullifies his nomination to be the supreme allied commander in Europe.

In a statement, Obama said he had granted Allen’s request. “I told General Allen that he has my deep, personal appreciation for his extraordinary service over the last 19 months in Afghanistan, as well as his decades of service in the United States Marine Corps,” the president said.

The decision deprives Obama of a four-star general with whom he had built a close wartime relationship and forces the White House to find a new candidate for the military’s most prestigious overseas assignment.

In an interview Monday evening, Allen said he wants to focus on helping his wife, Kathy, cope with a combination of chronic health issues that include an autoimmune disorder.

“Right now, I’ve just got to get her well,” Allen said. “It’s time to take care of my family. . . .”

Allen, who relinquished command of the war nine days ago, said his decision was not influenced by a Pentagon investigation into e-mail messages he exchanged with Tampa socialite Jill Kelley, who was involved in the scandal that prompted David H. Petraeus to resign as CIA director last year. Allen was cleared of wrongdoing last month, after investigators combed through the messages. . . .

Allen said his wife’s condition has been steadily deteriorating for a few years and has now reached a point where he believes it would have been problematic for her to receive the necessary medical authorization from the military to travel to Belgium, where NATO is based. The couple’s two adult daughters, who have helped to care for Kathy Allen, also live in Northern Virginia.

Even if she could have traveled there, Allen said, his responsibilities would keep him away from her much of the time. The current allied commander, Adm. James Stavridis, travels away from his Belgian headquarters more than half of each month.

“For a long time, I told her, ‘When you can’t bear this anymore, just tell me and I’ll drop my [resignation] letter right away,’ ” Allen said. But he said he no longer wants to place the pressure for that decision on her. “Now I need to be the one who takes this out of her hands.”

Allen, 59, is the first Marine ever to be selected to command a theater war. Leading the multinational military campaign was “the honor of a lifetime,” he said. . . .

A native of Warrenton, Va., Allen also was the first Marine to serve as the commandant of midshipmen at the Naval Academy.   (photo: Haraz N. Ghanbari/AP)

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