Today's AfPak round-up.
Washington's "irrational exuberance" in Afghanistan. Joshua Hammer sees a parallel between U.S. troops' ill-fated attempt to clear insurgents from the Korengal valley and Washington's war strategy at-large—in both cases, American officials expressed a degree of optimism completely out of synch with the situation on the ground. In the case of Korengal, where Hammer worked as an embedded journalist, U.S. troops eventually left after sustaining heavy losses and making few gains—in Hammer's view, this outcome is poised to repeat itself. [New Republic]
UK to withdraw from key Helmand district. British troops, after facing months of heavy casualties in Sangin district, will pass command to U.S. forces and move to other areas of Helmand province. This comes after Defense Minister Liam Fox warned that British troops were "too thinly spread" in the region, and is yet another sign that NATO's mission in Helmand, once led by a British general and dominated by British forces, is becoming largely an American fight. [Al Jazeera English, BBC]
Petraeus outlines agenda in letter to troops, civilian staff. In the letter, the newly-appointed NATO commander in Afghanistan commits to two goals: clearing international terrorist groups from the country and ensuring that Afghans "will not once again be ruled by those who embrace indiscriminate violence." He also called on troops to "continue to demonstrate our resolve" against increased Taliban violence and for more cooperation between NATO troops, civilian staff and Afghan partners. [NPR]
Pentagon defends tighter media rules. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the new rules, which direct troop leaders to seek approval from the Pentagon before speaking to the media, will address "a lack of coordination" in the Defense Department's relationship with the press, highlighted by a recent article in Rolling Stone on Gen. Stanley McChrystal. But the rights group Reporters Without Borders says the rules will make troops afraid to talk to journalists, thus making their jobs more difficult. [AP]