U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says he has "continued confidence" in General John Allen to remain as commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, despite his connection to a scandal that forced Central Intelligence Agency chief David Petraeus to resign.
Panetta made his first public remarks on the controversy Wednesday in Australia, where he is taking part in bilateral strategic cooperation talks.
General Allen is under an internal Pentagon investigation after the Federal Bureau of Investigation uncovered 20,000 to 30,000 pages of communications involving him and Jill Kelley. The probe is focusing on wheather the messages were "inappropriate."
It was Kelly's complaint to the FBI about threatening emails from the woman with whom General Petraeus had an affair, biographer Paula Broadwell, that eventually led to the CIA chief's resignation.
Panetta warned reporters that "no one should leap to any conclusions" about the matter.
But the defense chief said putting General Allen's nomination as supreme commander of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) on hold pending the Defense Department investigation was "pruduent."
President Barack Obama froze the general's nomination to the NATO post on Tuesday. But White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters that Mr. Obama also continues to have faith in General Allen, and thinks very highly of him and his service to the country.
General Allen was scheduled to testify Thursday before a congressional committee on his nomination. He has denied wrongdoing and will retain his command position in Afghanistan during the probe.
Timeline of the Petraeus Scandal