General John Allen, the US commander inAfghanistan, announced his early retirement late Tuesday, just a few short weeks before he was likely to be appointed NATO's next military chief.
In a statement, U.S. President Barack Obama said Allen was stepping down to deal with "health issues within the family" but others say the retirement is the result of an embarrassing Pentagon investigation involving the same woman at the center of a sex scandal which brought down CIA director David Petraeus.
The investigation cleared Allen but unearthed thousands of racy emails he sent to the woman, Paula Broadwell.
Allen told the Washington Post the investigation "took a toll" on his sick wife who is suffering from an autoimmune disorder.
"For more than 35 years, my beloved Kathy has devotedly stood beside me and enabled me to serve my country," Allen said as he announced his retirement. "It is profoundly sobering to consider how much of that time I have spent away from her and our two precious daughters. It is now my turn to stand beside them, to be there for them when they need me most."