After more than a decade at war and a scandal that almost ended his career, Marine Gen. John Allen is back home and considering retirement – rather than pursuing the job of running U.S. European Command, a source close to the four-star general tells Politico.
Allen declined to comment for this story. A spokesman said he has not decided what to do.
The White House stuck by Allen’s nomination for the top European post after a Pentagon investigation cleared him of any misconduct involved with emails he sent in connection with the extramarital affair that forced former CIA Director David Petraeus out of office.
But a source close to Allen says he feels as though he’s being pushed out – partly over the email scandal that Pentagon officials fear will never completely go away and partly because the other services are angling for one of their own to fill the coveted post as NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Brussels.
“He doesn’t have a rabbi” at the Pentagon, the source said, especially now that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is retiring. Alluding to the six o’clock position on a clock face that troops use to describe what could be behind them, Allen said, “No one’s got my six,” the source said.
If the White House resubmits Allen’s nomination, he would face an already testy Senate during his confirmation hearing, and the Petraeus scandal is sure to be a sticking point.
“He’s being pushed out for a variety of reasons,” the source said.
Another is the fear that his sibling services are angling for one of their own to take the European Command post, to keep another Marine out of another coveted command. Marine Gen. Joe Dunford just took over for Allen running the war in Afghanistan and Marine Gen. James Mattis has been running Central Command, which oversees operations in the Middle East.
“They want that spot to be open because it’s a plum job,” the source said. “The other services want it. They’re pushing hard to get him out. It’s not because they don’t like him. He’s a nice guy. He’s performed well, but they want that shot to get that job.”
Jockeying among the services for top-level positions is nothing new at the Pentagon, but Allen’s feeling of being alienated now that he’s back from the battlefield is weighing heavily on him, the source said.
A spokesman for Allen said he hasn’t made a decision on his future.
“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,” Maj. David Nevers said.
Panetta told reporters at a briefing at the Pentagon on Wednesday that Allen had not withdrawn his nomination for European Command and is resting at home with his family.
“We have tremendous confidence in him,” Panetta said, describing having met with Allen on Tuesday. “But I said, you just got to take some time to be able to be with your family and then think about what you want to do.”
In the meantime, Adm. James Stavridis, current head of the U.S. European Command, has been asked to stay on a few months beyond the end of his four-year term until Allen makes a decision.