Paula Broadwell, in Tampa on Wednesday for the first time since news that her affair with former CIA Director David Petraeus had local connections, says she wants to “move on” from the ensuing scandal that brought down two national security leaders and turned a Bayshore Boulevard woman into an international icon.
Broadwell, a major in the Army Reserves, moderated a panel at the University of South Florida’s Citizenship Initiative conference on Modern Warfare.
It’s only her second visit to Tampa, which became a focus of an unfurling story two years ago when Jill Kelley, a friend of Petraeus, reported to the FBI receiving threatening emails from Broadwell.
Broadwell, who co-authored a book about Petraeus and served with the U.S. intelligence community, U.S. Special Operations Command and the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, according to her biography, says her reintegration into the public spotlight “is going well.”
“I have had a wonderful sort of support community in Charlotte,” says Broadwell, who lives in the North Carolina city. “I have a great group of professionals like (conference organizers) Derek Harvey and David Jacobson. A lot of colleagues and friends know my background and accomplishments and have been willing to lend a hand.
“I get by with a little help from my friends.”
Broadwell would not comment about the ongoing Army investigation into her, the loss of her security clearance or the lawsuit claims made by Jill Kelley and her husband that the FBI and Defense Department leaked Kelley’s name during the investigation into the emails.
The investigation, which was later dropped, also revealed emails between Kelley and Marine Gen. John Allen, at the time head of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, that ultimately led to the end of his career. The lawsuit alleges that Broadwell “stalked a senior military official and sent the Kelleys, Director Petraeus, and Gen. Allen the threatening and defamatory emails about Mrs. Kelley.”
Kelley declined comment.
Broadwell says that she remains “very passionate about national security, international security and contributing to this debate. Moving forward has gone well, but not easy. It is important to focus forward and leave the past behind.”
For now, Broadwell says her focus will be on her “family, children and husband and making sure my family unit is good to go.”
She says she has her own consulting firm, working with veterans support organizations and women’s empowerment organizations.
“I have been writing about some of the same issues,” she says, “and empowerment supporting our transitioning veterans as they come back. I have been involved in a lot of those efforts in North Carolina, which has the fourth largest military population in the union.”
At USF, she moderated a wide-ranging discussion on a panel titled “The Prospects for Counterinsurgency, Stability Operations and Peacekeeping after Iraq and Afghanistan.”
“This university and Central Command and Special Operations command, located in Tampa, need to be thinking about the future of war, how we prepare our operators for the next conflict that we will face and inevitably, invariably, we are going to have to focus on the human dimension,” says Broadwell. “So the discussions yesterday and today have focused on what is the importance of understanding culture and language and social networks in foreign countries.”
Heading up the panel, at a conference attended by a large cadre of some of the leading Afghanistan and Iraq experts both in and out of uniform, was Broadwell’s first trip to Tampa since November 2012, when news broke that Petraeus, former commander of U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base, was stepping down from his CIA post over their affair.
“This is only my second time here in my life, actually,” Broadwell says. “Again, I am here to contribute to this conference. If it were in D.C. or Seattle, it doesn’t matter. These are former colleagues I have worked with in Afghanistan, Washington, D.C., and other theaters. I have worked with the conference organizers. They are good friends, so it is not unusual for me to be back here. I am grateful for it.”