In a startling turn of events, retired General John Allen will be stepping down as special envoy to the global coalition fighting ISIS and will be leaving government employment entirely.
President Obama’s hand-picked choice to lead the U.S. in the international effort fighting the Islamic State will call it quits just as the harsh spotlight intensifies scrutiny over questionable decisions by the administration. Bloomberg quoted four unnamed (and unverified) “administration officials” who claimed Allen “will leave government service in the coming weeks.”
“I vote for sooner rather than later,” Allen asserted to Defense One in June last year about the need for the U.S. to employ aggressive action against ISIS. Two months later, he again emphasized the U.S.’ unique position as “the only nation on the planet capable of exerting the kind of strategic leadership, influence, and strike capacity necessary to deal with IS [ISIS, ISIL]. It is also the only power capable of organizing a coalition’s reaction to this regional and international threat.”
But his plea in that op-ed for the U.S. to attack ISIS “suddenly, swiftly, [and] surgically” went unanswered by the White House — and that unheeded advisement now drives rumors about possible underlying reasons for Allen’s exit.
As the American endeavor in the region seems to be crumbling of late, the former General’s egress isn’t so surprising. Last month, division amongst administration officials about the handling of the fight against ISIS led Lt. Gen. Robert Neller to claim the effort is now “in a stalemate.” Then last week, the head of Central Command revealed $500 million spent by the Pentagon had trained just “four or five” Syrian rebel fighters — quite a difference from the estimated “5,000 anti-ISIS Syrian rebels” they predicted would be trained by this point in time. Now allegations have emerged that senior intelligence officials doctored records questioning the effectiveness of U.S. airstrikes — but not those that shone a favorable light on U.S. actions.
Allen disagreed with the Obama administration’s choice not to deploy tactical air control troops on the ground to aid accuracy in striking ISIS targets and to create a safe zone for civilians in Syria, as Turkey had demanded.
All controversy aside, officials insist the primary motivator for Allen’s exit is his wife’s health issues, as she suffers with an autoimmune disorder.
“John Allen has put his heart and soul into trying to make the president’s strategy work,” said former military intelligence official and coworker Derek Harvey. “I have sympathy for the hard task he was given because I do not believe the president’s team was fully on board and he was never empowered to bring the leadership necessary to achieve the mission.”
Allen will step down after just over a year as the ISIS czar. The administration is now scrambling to find his replacement.