President Barack Obama is about to lose the man he hand-picked to build the war effort against the Islamic State. Retired General John Allen will be stepping down as envoy to the global coalition this fall, and the White House is searching for a replacement to be the face of America’s flailing effort to destroy the jihadist group in Syria and Iraq.
Allen will leave government service in the coming weeks, four administration officials told us. State Department officials said they were not ready to officially announce Allen’s departure, but he has notified his superiors he will give up his job in early November, after serving just over one year. His chief of staff, Karin von Hippel, will also depart, to join a British think tank.
The timing of Allen’s departure could not be worse for the Obama administration. The incoming Marine Corps Commandant, Lieutenant General Robert Neller, testified last month that the war is at a “stalemate.” Last week, the head of the U.S. Central Command, General Lloyd Austin, testified that of the 54 Syrian rebels trained and equipped by the U.S. military, only “4 or 5” were still in the fight. And now the Pentagon is investigating allegations by dozens of intelligence analysts that their reporting on the progress in the war effort was altered before being given to top officials.
U.S. officials familiar with Allen’s decision say he has been frustrated with White House micromanagement of the war and its failure to provide adequate resources to the fight. He unsuccessfully tried to convince the administration to allow U.S. tactical air control teams to deploy on the ground to help pick targets for air strikes in Iraq. Allen also tried several times to convince the White House to agree to Turkish demands for a civilian protection zone in Syria, to no avail. Nonetheless, administration officials stress that Allen’s decision to leave his post was motivated mainly by the health of his wife, who suffers from an auto-immune disorder.