The US commander in Afghanistan, General John Allen, is under investigation for inappropriate communications with a Florida woman, Jill Kelley.
Kelley is the same woman whose complaint exposed the affair which led to the resignation of CIA director, David Petraeus, last week.
General Allen’s scheduled promotion to supreme command of NATO has now been put on hold, as investigators sift through as many as 30,000 emails and documents that the general reportedly shared with the Tampa socialite.
The scandals are leaving many in Afghanistan with concerns.
The BBC’s Bilal Sarwary in Kabul says he spoke to many senior officials Tuesday in the Afghan government, and most have serious questions about the case.
“How on earth did he find the time to send 30,000 emails to this woman, when he’s supposed to be fighting a war.” That’s how Sarwary characterizes their responses.
Afghans are impressed, however, with the American system, Sarwary says.
“Even if you’re General Petraeus; even if you’re the CIA chief, if you do something wrong, you’re going to pay for it.”
He says it’s almost impossible to imagine the same thing happening with Afghan officials and generals.
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Marco Werman: I’m Marco Werman. This is The World. David Petraeus is now not the only one under a cloud. Today we learn that his successor as top US military commander in Afghanistan, General John Allen, is also being investigated. Allen is under scrutiny for inappropriate communications with a Florida woman, Jill Kelley. That’s the same Jill Kelley whose complaint to the FBI exposed the affair involving Petraeus and led to his resignation as CIA chief. General Allen’s scheduled promotion to supreme command of NATO has now been put on hold, while investigators sift through as many as 30,000 emails and documents that the general reportedly shared with the Tampa socialite. Meanwhile in Afghanistan, 68,000 US troops still on the ground are looking for direction. The BBC’s Bilal Sarwary is in Kabul. Now, neither Petraeus nor Allen have yet been accused of any wrongdoing, just poor judgment. How is it understood by Afghans, what’s going on here?
Bilal Sarwary: Well, I was speaking to a number of Afghan officials and leaders who are very close friends with General Allen, and General Petraeus actually, from his time in Afghanistan. And they are saying they are shocked, simply shocked. Like most Americans, they are waiting for a number of questions to be answered. I was speaking to very senior Afghan officials, including those close to President Karzai, this afternoon, and they said how on earth did General John Allen have time to write 30,000 emails. After all, he was running a war. And they said they are very interested to find out what exactly was the content of those emails. But they made it very clear that General Allen was very crucial to the success in the fight against Taliban, that he had a very close working relationship with Afghan leaders and commanders.
Werman: Now, Bilal, these people you spoke with, as you said, are officials. What about the average Afghan in the street. Is this kind of a unanimous sense that really, kind of too bad and shocking that this happened?
Sarwary: It’s interesting you ask that question. This morning when I was driving from home to work, I met a shopkeeper not very far from my home. He was reading the news on one of the front pages of a local newspaper and he said he is just shocked that senior people like Petraeus and General John Allen would do something like that. So this is news that has been widely covered, Afghan TV channels, radio stations, and the word of mouth has traveled quite far. Both General Petraeus and General John Allen are names that most Afghans are very familiar with. They were names that were always in the news, and most people know them very well in this part of the world.
Werman: Bilal, let me ask you a cultural question. Infidelity at this level in a person’s career, especially a man in Afghanistan, what does that mean? What does that suggest to people?
Sarwary: Well, it’s not unusual for a number of Afghan officials to have relationships outside of marriage, but the difference between Afghanistan and somewhere like the United States is less accountability. Those sort of details may never come, we may never know about this sort of incident in a system like Afghanistan. There are Afghan officials who have several wives, there are Afghan officials who have issues in their personal life, but as I said, it never comes out in the press. It never finds its way to the public, so that’s a major difference. I think there’s no way you can compare the US and Afghanistan in that aspect.
Werman: But if an official in Afghanistan’s infidelity were to come out in the press as a marital infidelity, would that be cause for resignation?
Sarwary: I very much doubt that something like that might come in the first place. Secondly, if it did, I would doubt that, I would highly doubt that. And that is one of the questions that one of the commentators on TV was saying, that look, America is that far away, America is that strong, because of the system. Even if you’re General Petraeus, even if you’re the CIA chief, if you do something wrong, you’re going to pay for it. And that aspect of American system or American governance, has been praised, if anything, in this part of the world, in Afghanistan.
Werman: The BBC’s Bilal Sarwary speaking with us from Kabul.
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