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John R. Allen (born December 15, 1953) is the president of the Brookings Institution, a retired United States Marine Corps four-star general, and former commander of the NATO International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces – Afghanistan (USFOR-A). On September 13, 2014, President Barack Obama appointed Allen as special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant).[1] He was succeeded in that role by Brett McGurk on October 23, 2015.[2]

John R. Allen
General John R. Allen.jpg
Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
In office
September 16, 2014 – October 23, 2015
PresidentBarack Obama
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byBrett McGurk
Commander of the International Security Assistance Force
In office
July 18, 2011 – February 10, 2013
PresidentBarack Obama
Preceded byDavid Petraeus
Succeeded byJoseph Dunford
Commander of United States Central Command
In office
June 30, 2010 – August 11, 2010
PresidentBarack Obama
Preceded byDavid Petraeus
Succeeded byJames Mattis
Personal details
Born (1953-12-15) December 15, 1953 (age 65)
Fort Belvoir, Virginia, U.S.
EducationUnited States Naval Academy (BS)
Georgetown University (MA)
National Intelligence University (MS)
National Defense University (MS)
Civilian awardsHonorary Officer of the Order of Australia
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Marine Corps
Years of service1976–2013
CommandsInternational Security Assistance Force
U.S. Forces Afghanistan
U.S. Central Command (Deputy Commander)
2nd Battalion, 4th Marines
2nd Battalion, 6th Marines
The Basic School
U.S. Naval AcademyCommandant of Midshipmen
II Marine Expeditionary Force
Battles/warsIraq War
War in Afghanistan
Military awardsDefense Distinguished Service Medal (3)
Defense Superior Service Medal
Legion of Merit (4)
Leftwich Leadership Trophy


Early life and educationEdit

Allen was born at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, on December 15, 1953; his father Joseph K. Allen, was a Navy veteran of World War II and the Korean war who retired as a lieutenant commander.[3][4] He attended Flint Hill School in Oakton, Virginia. He graduated with military honors from the U.S. Naval Academy with the Class of 1976, receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in Operations Analysis. He is a 1998 Distinguished Graduate of the National War College. He holds a Master of Arts degree in National Security Studies from Georgetown University, a Master of Science degree in Strategic Intelligence from the National Defense Intelligence College, and a Master of Science degree in National Security Strategy from the National War College of National Defense University.


Following commissioning in 1976, Allen attended The Basic School and was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines, where he served as a platoon and rifle company commander. His next tour took him to Marine Barracks, 8th and I, Washington, D.C. where he served at the Marine Corps Institute and as a ceremonial officer.

Allen then attended the Postgraduate Intelligence Program of the Defense Intelligence College, where he was the Distinguished Graduate. He subsequently served as the Marine Corps Fellow to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). He was the first Marine Corps officer inducted as a Term Member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Returning to the Fleet Marine Force in 1985, he commanded rifle and weapons companies and served as the operations officer of 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines. During this period he received the Leftwich Leadership Trophy. In 1988, Allen reported to the U.S. Naval Academy, where he taught in the Political Science Department and also served as the jump officer and jump master of the academy. In 1990 he received the William P. Clements Award as military instructor of the year.

Allen reported to The Basic School as the director of the Infantry Officer Course from 1990 to 1992 and was subsequently selected by the Commandant of the Marine Corps Fellows Program, which provides "assignment to either a prominent national foreign policy/public policy research institution or to a national security studies program at a selected university".[5] Allen has served as a special assistant on the staffs of the 30th Commandant of the Marine Corps and the commanding general of Marine Corps Combat Development Command. In 1994, he served as the Division G-3 Operations Officer for the 2nd Marine Division and subsequently assumed command of 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines; re-designated as 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines. This unit served with JTF-160 in Operation SEA SIGNAL during Caribbean contingency operations in 1994, and as part of the Landing Force of the 6th Fleet in Operation JOINT ENDEAVOR during Balkans contingency operations in 1995–1996.

Following battalion command, Allen reported as the senior aide-de-camp to the 31st Commandant of the Marine Corps, Charles C. Krulak, ultimately serving as his military secretary.

He commanded The Basic School from 1999 to 2001, when he was selected in April 2001 to return to the Naval Academy as the deputy commandant. Allen became the 79th Commandant of Midshipmen in January 2002, the first Marine Corps officer to serve in this position at the Naval Academy.[6] In January 2003 Allen was nominated for appointment to the rank of brigadier general.[7]

Allen's first tour as a general officer was as the principal director of Asian and Pacific Affairs in the Office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense, a position he occupied for nearly three years. From 2006–2008, Allen served as deputy commanding general of the II Marine Expeditionary Force and commanding general of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, deploying to Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom 06-08, serving as the deputy commanding general of Multi-National Forces West and II MEF (Forward) in the Al Anbar Province, Iraq. In January 2007 Allen was nominated for appointment to the grade of major general.[8]

In June 2008, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced Allen's nomination for promotion to the rank of lieutenant general.[9] He served as the deputy commander of the U.S. Central Command from July 15, 2008, until July 18, 2011, at MacDill Air Force Base.[10][11] On June 30, 2010, Allen temporarily commanded Central Command after General David Petraeus left to assume command of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.[12] He served as acting commander until General James Mattis took command on August 11.[13][14][15] Allen was promoted to general by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen prior to his assumption of command of ISAF, and U.S. Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A) on July 18, 2011.[16]

Allen's foreign awards include the Mongolian Meritorious Service Medal, First Class; the Polish Army Medal in Gold; the Taiwan Order of the Resplendent Banner; the French Legion of Honor; the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic; Honorary Officer of the Order of Australia; and the Ghazi Mir Bacha Khan Medal.

On March 6, 2012, he received the Polish Afghanistan Star Medal from Polish President, Bronisław Komorowski.[17]

On April 20, 2012, he received another Polish award, the Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland.[18]

In November 2012, he came under investigation for possible "inappropriate-communication" concerning his correspondences with Jill Kelley, the Honorary Ambassador to U.S. Central Command Coalition Forces.[19] In response to the investigation, Secretary Panetta suspended his confirmation hearing for commander of EUCOM and requested the U.S. Congress to speed the confirmation of General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr. to command of forces in Afghanistan.[20] On January 22, 2013, General Allen was cleared in a misconduct inquiry.[21]

On February 10, 2013, Allen relinquished command of the International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A) to General Dunford.[22]

On February 19, 2013, U.S. President Obama accepted Allen's request to retire from the military as his wife fell seriously ill.[23]

On April 29, 2013, Allen's retirement ceremony was held at the United States Naval Academy.[24]

Post-military careerEdit

After leaving the military, Allen continued to work as an adviser to Secretary of State John Kerry and former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. In this capacity he worked closely with Israeli, Palestinian, and Jordanian interlocutors on the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Plan.

On September 11, 2014, the Obama Administration announced that Allen would coordinate international efforts against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.[25] He was named as the Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition against ISIL, a position he would hold for 15 months. Allen's diplomatic efforts grew the coalition to 65 members.[26][27]

On October 23, 2015, the White House announced his departure from the post. He officially departed that role on November 12, 2015, and was succeeded by Brett McGurk.[28]

After government service, Allen joined the Brookings Institution as senior fellow and co-director of the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence.[29] On October 4, 2017, Allen was named the seventh president of Brookings, succeeding Strobe Talbott.[30]

Allen is a member of the Homeland Security Advisory Council.[31]

Political roleEdit

Allen speaking at the 2016 DNC

Allen was a featured speaker at the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on July 27, 2016, on the topic of national security. He criticized Republican nominee Donald Trump and endorsed Hillary Clinton for President.[32]

Awards and decorationsEdit

Allen's personal decorations include the following:

U.S. military decorations
Defense Distinguished Service Medal (with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters)
  Defense Superior Service Medal
Legion of Merit (with 3 Award Stars)
  Defense Meritorious Service Medal
Meritorious Service Medal (gold awards star)
Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (with 3 award stars)
Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal
U.S. unit awards
Joint Meritorious Unit Award (with 1 oak leaf cluster)
Navy Unit Commendation with 2 service stars
Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation with 2 service stars
U.S. service (campaign) medals and service and training ribbons
National Defense Service Medal (with 2 Service Stars)
  Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
Afghanistan Campaign Medal (with service star)
Iraq Campaign Medal (with service star)
  Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal
  Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
  Korea Defense Service Medal
  Armed Forces Service Medal
  Humanitarian Service Medal
Sea Service Deployment Ribbon (with 7 service stars)
International decorations
  NATO Meritorious Service Medal[33]
NATO Medal for Yugoslavia with bronze service star
Foreign state decorations
  Ghazi Mir Bacha Khan Medal (Afghanistan)[34]
  Honorary Officer of the Order of Australia, Military Division[35]
  Commander of the Legion of Honour (France)[36]
  Order of Merit of the Italian Republic – Grand Officer[37]
  Meritorious Service Medal, First Class (Mongolia)[38]
  Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland[39]
  Polish Army Medal, Gold[38]
  Polish Afghanistan Star[40]
  Order of the Cloud and Banner with Special Cravat (Taiwan)[38]
U.S. badges
  Navy and Marine Corps Parachutist Insignia
  Expert Rifle marksmanship badge
  Expert Pistol marksmanship badge
  Office of the Secretary of Defense Identification Badge


  1. ^ "Announcement of General John Allen as Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL". State Department. Retrieved September 19, 2014.
  2. ^ "Obama names Brett McGurk as envoy to coalition fighting Islamic State". October 23, 2015 – via Reuters.
  3. ^ "Nominations Before the Senate Armed Services Committee, First Session, 112th Congress" (PDF). FAS Committee on Armed Services. Retrieved November 14, 2012.
  4. ^ Whitlock, Craig (June 14, 2011). "Low-key Marine, Gen. John R. Allen, to take over Afghan war at high-stakes time". Washington Post. Washington, DC.
  5. ^
  6. ^ Gen. Allen reflects on his assignment at the USNA in In the Shadow of Greatness. Naval Institute Press, 2012, book authored by the UNSA Class of 2002.
  7. ^ "Marine nominated for No. 2 CENTCOM post". Stars and Stripes. June 15, 2008. Retrieved January 4, 2009.
  8. ^ "General Officer Announcement – nomination of MajGen John R. Allen for appointment as the Deputy Commander, U.S. Central Command". Marine Corps Gazette. Archived from the original on August 21, 2008. Retrieved January 4, 2009.
  9. ^ "Lieutenant General John R. Allen, Deputy Commander". U.S. CENTCOM Leadership. CENTCOM. Archived from the original on January 30, 2009. Retrieved January 4, 2009.
  10. ^ "Lt. Gen. Allen named CENTCOM acting commander". CENTCOM (Press release). U.S. Central Command. June 30, 2010. Archived from the original on July 3, 2010. Retrieved July 2, 2010.
  11. ^ "Mattis takes over Central Command, vows to work with Mideast allies in Afghanistan, Iraq". Los Angeles Times. Associated Press. August 11, 2010. Retrieved August 12, 2010.[dead link]
  12. ^ Mitchell, Robbyn (August 12, 2010). "Mattis takes over as CentCom chief". St. Petersburg Times. p. 1. Archived from the original on October 12, 2012. Retrieved August 12, 2010.
  13. ^ "Mattis assumes command of CENTCOM". U.S. Central Command. August 11, 2010. Retrieved August 12, 2010.
  14. ^ "General John R. Allen Assumes Command of ISAF". ISAF Headquarters Public Affairs. Archived from the original on March 15, 2012. Retrieved July 18, 2011.
  15. ^ Spotkanie z polskimi żołnierzami w Afganistanie – last (8th) photo.
  16. ^ Order dla gen. Johna Allena, dowódcy ISAF
  17. ^ The Telegraph (London), "Gen John Allen investigated for 'inappropriate communications' to Jill Kelley", Hannah Furness, 8:01AM GMT November 13, 2012
  18. ^ BBC News, "David Petraeus CIA scandal engulfs US Gen John Allen", November 13, 2012 Last updated at 05:26 ET
  19. ^ Chandrasekaran, Rajiv (January 23, 2013). "Gen. John Allen cleared in misconduct inquiry". Washington Post. Retrieved January 22, 2013.
  20. ^ BBC News, "Afghan Isaf commander John Allen sees 'road to winning'", February 10, 2013
  21. ^ Chandrasekaran, Rajiv (February 20, 2013). "Gen. John Allen intends to retire, decline military's top post in Europe". Washington Post. Retrieved February 19, 2013.
  22. ^ "Gen. John Allen quietly retires from the Marine Corps". MarineTimes. Archived from the original on March 3, 2014. Retrieved April 30, 2013.
  23. ^ Michael R. Gordon (September 11, 2014). "Retired Gen. John R. Allen in Line to Lead Effort vs. ISIS". NY Times. Retrieved September 11, 2014.
  24. ^ Storey, David (September 12, 2014). "Former U.S. Afghanistan commander to lead effort against Islamic State". Reuters. Retrieved September 15, 2014.
  25. ^ "Gen. John Allen named as US envoy to anti-IS coalition". The Times of Israel. September 14, 2014. Retrieved September 15, 2014.
  26. ^ "Obama's Anti-ISIS Point Man Leaving as Russia Steps In". The New York Times. October 23, 2015.
  27. ^ "John R. Allen". Brookings Institution.
  28. ^ "John R. Allen named next Brookings Institution president". Brookings Institution. October 4, 2017.
  29. ^ "Homeland Security Advisory Council Members". U.S. Department of Homeland Security. February 13, 2017. Retrieved March 17, 2017.
  30. ^ "4-Star General Delivers Forceful Case For Clinton At DNC".
  31. ^ "General John R. Allen, USMC (Ret.)". LEADERSHIP > CONFERENCE > ARCHIVE > 2014. United States Naval Academy. Retrieved July 3, 2017.
  32. ^ "John R. Allen". Middle East Institute. Retrieved July 3, 2017.
  33. ^ Brady CVO, Stephen (April 14, 2014). "Honorary Appointment within the Order of Australia" (PDF). Governor General of Australia. Commonwealth of Australia. Retrieved July 3, 2017.
  34. ^ "CEMA : visite du CEMA en Afghanistan à l'occasion de Noël". Ministère des Armées. December 26, 2012. Retrieved July 3, 2017.
  35. ^ "Home onorificenze dettaglio decorato Allen Gen. John R." (in Italian). Retrieved July 3, 2017.
  36. ^ a b c "General John R. Allen Former Commander, International Security Assistance Force, and Commander, United States Forces-Afghanistan". US Department of Defense Home > About > Biographies. US Department of Defense. Retrieved July 3, 2017.
  37. ^ "POSTANOWIENIE PREZYDENTA RZECZYPOSPOLITEJ POLSKIEJ z dnia 18 kwietnia 2012 r." MONITOR POLSKI (in Polish). Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej. April 18, 2012. Retrieved July 3, 2017.
  38. ^ Campbell, SSgt April (March 5, 2012). "Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski, left, awards Poland's Afghanistan Star Medal to International Security Assistance Force commander Gen. John R. Allen at ISAF Headquarters, March 6". ISAF Media. US Army. Retrieved July 3, 2017.


This article incorporates text in the public domain from the United States Marine Corps.

External linksEdit

Military offices
Preceded by
Samuel J. Locklear
Commandant of Midshipmen at the United States Naval Academy
Succeeded by
Charles J. Leidig
Preceded by
David Petraeus
Commander of United States Central Command

Succeeded by
James Mattis
Commander of the International Security Assistance Force
Succeeded by
Joseph Dunford
Diplomatic posts
New office Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
Succeeded by
Brett McGurk
Non-profit organization positions
Preceded by
Strobe Talbott
President of the Brookings Institution