Gen. Allen To Retire, Won't Lead European Command

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Feb. 19 2013 2:15 PM

Gen. Allen To Retire, Won't Lead European Command

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Gen. John Allen was President Obama's pick to lead NATO troops in Europe

Photo by Thierry Charlier/AFP/GettyImages

Gen. John Allen has decided to retire from the military to take care of his ailing wife, the White House announced today, meaning that President Obama will have to find someone else to become the supreme allied commander in Europe.

"Today, I met with Gen. John Allen and accepted his request to retire from the military so that he can address health issues within his family," the president said in a statement. "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."

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Allen later added: "The reasons for my decision are personal. I did not come to it lightly or quickly, but given the considerations behind it, I recognized in the end it was the only choice I could make."

Allen wrapped up his 19-month stint as the top commander of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan earlier this month, and had been tapped by the president to lead NATO forces in Europe. The four-star general was expected to have a rather easy go of it during his Senate confirmation, although he would have likely faced at least a question or two about his link to the scandal that brought a stunning end to the storied career of all-around national security powerhouse David Petraeus last year. A Pentagon investigation into Allen's emails with Florida socialite Jill Kelley recently cleared Allen of any wrong doing.

Speaking with the Washington Post ahead of the announcement, Allen said that his focus would now be on caring for his wife, Kathy, who copes with a combination of chronic health issues that include an autoimmune disorder. "Right now, I’ve just got to get her well," the general said. "It’s time to take care of my family."

No word yet on who Obama will turn to now that Allen is out of the picture.

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City.