NATO's Rasmussen backs U.S. Afghanistan commander Allen

BRUSSELS Wed Nov 14, 2012 6:09am EST

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The head of NATO said on Wednesday he had full confidence in Marine General John Allen, the commander of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan who is being investigated over potentially inappropriate communications.

Allen, who denies any wrongdoing, is under scrutiny over communications with Jill Kelley, a Florida socialite. Kelley is at the centre of the case that cost CIA Director David Petraeus his job.

"I have full confidence in General Allen," NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

Rasmussen's comments followed backing from senior U.S. officials. U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Tuesday placed Allen under investigation, suspending his nomination to the position of commander of U.S. and allied forces in Europe.

On Wednesday, Panetta praised Allen's work commanding the Afghan war effort, a position he retains despite the inquiry, and said he had "continued confidence" in Allen. Both Allen and the official due to replace him in Afghanistan must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate before they can take up their new posts.

Rasmussen said Allen had "demonstrated an outstanding leadership" in Afghanistan, but added: "This is not a NATO issue. This is an issue to be handled by the U.S. authorities."

(Writing by Sebastian Moffett)

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