"Gen. John Allen has proven himself to be one of the United States military's most outstanding battlefield leaders, a brilliant strategist, and an exemplary Marine, and I am deeply grateful for his many years of dedicated service to our country.
"I will be forever thankful that the international effort in Afghanistan was in Gen. 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. The strategy he developed and implemented has put us on the right path towards completing this mission, with Afghan forces now on track to step into the lead for security nationwide this spring and to assume full security responsibility by the end of next year.
"Gen. Allen's selfless dedication to our troops and to their mission was a source of inspiration to those who served with him, as well as to those of us here at home. He has earned the lasting thanks of this nation for carrying the heavy burden of leadership with utmost professionalism and courage. I wish him and his entire family all the best in the next chapter of their lives."