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Pentagon memo outlines military, media interaction in Afghanistan

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Pentagon releases memo of recommendations on media engagement in Afghanistan
  • Memo calls for better explanations of importance of Afghan war to U.S. security
  • Memo calls for more use of local, regional media
  • Memo released after defense chief clarified military's rules dealing with media

Washington (CNN) -- A Defense Department memo obtained by CNN Monday outlines "consensus recommendations" on how the U.S. military should interact with members of the media in relation to the war in Afghanistan.

Among other things, the July 2 memo includes a recommendation of weekly briefings for Pentagon press by military officials in the field. It also calls for "consistent media engagement by our most credible interlocutors."

It cites a "need to more effectively explain and sustain public understanding of [the Afghan] mission, goals, complexities and direct relevance to national security."

In addition, it calls for increased military engagement with local and regional media outlets.

According to the memo, the recommendations were framed in part by "the understanding that key milestones" such as the July 2011 drawdown date will "frame public and decision-maker perceptions." They are also based on an "understanding that 'win-lose' terms need to be supplanted by better metrics and measurements of progress."

The memo was obtained ten days after Defense Secretary Robert Gates ordered a tightening of controls over military interaction with reporters. Military officials, he specified, are required to notify the Pentagon before providing interviews on potentially sensitive subjects.

Gates issued his order shortly after Gen. Stanley McChrystal was relieved of his duties as the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan in the wake of the publication of a Rolling Stone magazine article in which the general and his staff were quoted criticizing and mocking key administration officials.

Gates said last week that information given by military officials has too often been "lacking in proper context." Furthermore, he said, "highly classified" information has frequently been divulged without proper approval.

Gates said he concluded that "we need greater coordination and discipline" in dealing with the media.

CNN's Barbara Starr contributed to this report