By Richard Luce
U.S. President Barack Obama has suffered yet another blow in his national security team just days after the head of the CIA stepped down after admitting adultery and another general who was about to be promoted to head the U.S. Central Command was forced to wait on the sidelines as the FBI investigated his indiscretions with a married woman.
The third general to be caught in a scandal within days is the former head of the Africa Command, Gen William ‘Kip’ Ward. Gen Ward, one of the US’s most senior African American generals was demoted to Lt Gen last week by Defence Secretary Leon Panetta after allegedly using military vehicles to take his wife shopping and spending thousands of dollars staying at lavish hotels.
The removal of one star from Gen Ward’s shoulder is an embarrassment no military man, leave alone one who was destined for higher things like former US Secretary of State Gen Colin Powell, would ever want to be visited upon him. It is also an embarrassment President Obama would have done without so soon after his historical and dramatic re-election triumph at the beginning of this month.
According to insiders in Mr Panetta’s office, the defence secretary was forced to demote Gen Ward after a lengthy investigation found the general had taken an 11-day trip to Washington DC and Atlanta with his military entourage that cost $129,000 (£81,000). Only three days of the excursion were for official business. US media reports said the travel mishaps included bringing Ward’s wife on extended business trips. One in Bermuda involved a suite for $747 a night at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess
Ward, the first Africom commander from 2007-2011 based in Stuttgart, has denied the allegations. Ward’s wife travelled with the general on military aircraft during 52 of 79 trips reviewed by investigators, according to the report, which also found that Ward extended his trips seven times for personal reasons in which he was reimbursed for travel expenses.