The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General John Allen, is reportedly under investigation for alleged "inappropriate communications" with a woman at the center of the scandal involving former CIA director David Petraeus.
U.S. Defense Department officials say investigators have uncovered thousands of pages of communications between Allen and Jill Kelley between 2010 and 2012.
Kelley is a friend of the Petraeus family who is said to have received threatening e-mails from Paula Broadwell, the woman with whom Petraeus had an extramarital affair.
The revelation of Petraeus’s relationship with Broadwell prompted his resignation as CIA director on November 9.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in a statement that Allen's nomination to lead the U.S. European Command and become NATO’s supreme allied commander in Europe had been put on hold "until the relevant facts are determined."
The statement said President Barack Obama had agreed to the postponement.
The general was due to face a Senate confirmation hearing for the NATO post on November 15 and had been widely expected to win approval.
Panetta said that Allen would remain in Kabul as the commander of NATO-led security forces until his expected successor there, General Joseph Dunford, was confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
The defense secretary praised the general's work in Afghanistan, saying his leadership had been "instrumental" in securing progress in the war against Taliban militants.
The White House said on November 13 that President Barack Obama has "faith" in Allen to continue as commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan while he is being investigated.
White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters that the president believed Allen was doing a good job in Afghanistan.
Allen succeeded Petraeus as the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan in July 2011.
A veteran of the Iraq war, Allen was deputy commander of Central Command before taking over in Afghanistan.
News agencies quoted an unnamed defense official as saying the FBI had uncovered up to 30,000 pages of correspondence -- mostly e-mails -- between Allen and Kelley. A U.S. Defense Department official said Allen denied any wrongdoing.
It remains unclear what allegations Allen faces. Officials declined to comment whether he had disclosed any classified information.
The 37-year-old Kelley reportedly served as an unpaid social liaison at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, which is headquarters of the U.S. Central Command. Both Petraeus and Allen have served at the base.
Speaking to reporters aboard a plane en route to Australia, Panetta said Petraeus had made the right decision to resign as director of the CIA.
"I think it's really important to continue to have the CIA staying on track doing the job that is absolutely essential for our national security," Panetta said.
"They have a very important mission focused on intelligence and intelligence operations, and I think it's very important to get someone strong, capable, and dedicated to be able to continue that effort."
In another twist in the story, U.S. media are reporting that FBI agents searched Broadwell’s home in Charlotte, North Carolina late on November 12.
An FBI spokeswoman confirmed agents had gone to the home but declined to say what their task was.
The FBI has been investigating whether the relationship between Broadwell and Petraeus posed a security risk.
With reporting by Reuters, BBC, and AFP