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    Panetta praises Allen’s role in Afghan mission

    WASHINGTON (PAN): General John Allen, who was commander of the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan for 19 months till early this month, played a pivotal role in the mission, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Tuesday.

    Panetta showered praise on his former Afghan commander, who announced his decision to retire from the US military, citing family reasons.

    “I will be forever thankful that the international effort in Afghanistan was in General Allen's capable hands during much of my tenure as Secretary of Defense.  His leadership over the last 19 months will long be remembered as pivotal to this campaign,” Panetta remarked.  

    The strategy he developed and implemented had put the US on the right path toward completing the mission, with Afghan forces ready for the lead security role, the secretary added.

    Panetta said Allen's selfless dedication to troops and to their mission was a source of inspiration to those who served with him. “He has earned the lasting thanks of this nation for carrying the heavy burden of leadership with utmost professionalism and courage.”

    Senator Lindsey Graham regretted that Allen was retiring and not assuming NATO command.  “Gen. Allen informed me shortly after meeting with the president that due to personal family reasons, he will be seeking retirement.”

    The lawmaker acknowledged the commander’s leadership role. “He led the surge of troops in Afghanistan, delivered a strong blow against our enemies, and did an exceptional job building up the Afghan security forces.”