Af-Pak theater commander caught in sex scandal?

The FBI probe into the affair involving a former commander of the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater of war has apparently led to the exposure of his successor.  Reports overnight from several news sources say that investigators discovered tens of thousands of communications between General John Allen, commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, and Jill Kelley, whose friendship with General David Petraeus allegedly triggered a bout of e-mail harassment from Petraeus’ mistress Paula Broadwell:

The FBI probe into the sex scandal that prompted CIA Director David Petraeus to resign has expanded to ensnare Gen. John R. Allen, the commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, the Pentagon announced early Tuesday.

According to a senior U.S. defense official, the FBI has uncovered between 20,000 and 30,000 documents — most of them e-mails — of “potentially inappropriate” communications between Allen and Jill Kelley, a 37-year-old Tampa woman whose close relationship with Petraeus ultimately led to his downfall.

Allen, a Marine, succeeded Petraeus as the top allied commander in Afghanistan in July 2011. He also served as Petraeus’s deputy when both generals led the military’s Tampa-based Central Command from 2008 until 2010.

The FBI first notified the Pentagon of its investigation into Allen’s communications with Kelley on Sunday evening, according to the senior defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details of the pending case.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta issued a statement last night that said Allen would remain in place for now, but he was on his way out anyway.  The Senate Armed Services Committee was scheduled to take up the confirmation hearing of his successor, Marine General Joseph F. Dunford, on Thursday.  According to the Washington Post, Panetta asked Senate leadership yesterday to expedite Dunford’s confirmation, and that could happen within days.  At the same time, Panetta put a hold on Allen’s promotion to commander of all NATO forces in Europe while the investigation continues.

Allen will have fewer options than Petraeus did if this turns out to be true.  Petraeus was a civilian when his affair was discovered, and could have opted to keep his job.  An extramarital affair on active duty is another matter entirely.  The Uniform Code of Military Justice prohibits such sexual relationships, and it could result in a court-martial.

That doesn’t occur very often, but that’s not to say that it’s consequence-free, either.  Seven years ago, Army Chief of Staff Peter Schoomaker abruptly dismissed four-star General Kevin Byrnes from the service over an extramarital affair, even though Byrnes was only a few months away from retirement, and even though Byrnes and his wife had been separated for months and were in the process of divorce.  Byrnes headed the Training and Doctrine Command in Virginia, not a war theater or a strategic center such as NATO, but that probably makes it worse for Allen, not better.

Let’s hope that Jill Kelley and Paula Broadwell have never made General Dunford’s acquaintance.

Update: Maybe it’s not the money after all:

Update II: Ace Gabriel Malor at Ace’s place is aghast, not just at the cheating, but the sheer scope of the communications:

Twenty to thirty THOUSAND pages? I write for a living and I can tell you that I haven’t written twenty to thirty thousand pages in my working career. Cheese-and-crackers, that’s a damn lot of love letters. I’ve never liked anyone enough EVER to spend that much time talking to them. Eesh.

The inescapable rule of affairs just ran into the first rule of spycraft. The rule of affairs is that there is never just one. You cheat, that makes you a cheater. It never just happens once.

And the first rule of spycraft is that “Everyone (or every man) has his blond bombshell in a red Ferrari.” Translation: every idiot will let his sex drive drive.

On Twitchy, it’s been suggested that these may be captures of chat sessions, which would make more sense … but also mean that the commander of the Af-Pak theater spends a lot of time thinking about something other than victory.