U.S. envoy for anti-Islamic State coalition Allen to step down

Retired U.S. General John Allen, special envoy for building the coalition against Islamic State, speaks to the media during a news conference at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad January 14, 2015. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. special envoy for countering the Islamic State militant group, retired General John Allen, plans to step down for personal reasons, a U.S. official said on Tuesday.

Allen, a retired U.S. Marine four star general and a former commander of NATO and U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, had originally agreed to serve in the job for six months and has done it for a year, said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

While acknowledging disagreements within Washington over U.S. policy toward the militant group, which has seized control of parts of Iraq and Syria, the U.S. official said Allen's plan to step down reflected personal, not professional, factors.

The Syrian civil war has raged for more than four years, creating a vacuum in Syria that the Islamic State militant group has exploited to seize territory there and in neighboring Iraq.

Allen's job included rallying a U.S.-led coalition that has carried out air strikes against Islamic State fighters in both nations. Asked if Allen had told colleagues he planned to leave, State Department spokesman Mark Toner did not answer directly, telling reporters that he "remains focused on his duties."

Allen's plans to step down were first reported on Bloomberg View.

(Reporting By Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Andrew Hay)