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Joint Chiefs prep military strategy plans for Trump and top commanders

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The Joint Chiefs of Staff are finalizing a classified military strategy they plan to present to President-elect Donald Trump detailing the military challenges to the US, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said Saturday.

The classified report has been underway for months, and is spearheaded by General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Key commanders such as General Joseph Votel, head of Central Command and others have also been involved.

The five threats — posed by Iran, North Korea, China, Russia and violent extremism — are detailed in annexes to the classified report. There are no formal military responses and options detailed. The idea is that this will lay the groundwork for key decisions on spending, size of the military and readiness that Trump will have to make. The report was being prepared regardless of whom won the election.

“Under the leadership of General Dunford and all the chiefs and combatant commanders, have come together over a period of the last several months and have produced a classified national military strategy that will be presented to the President and the new team,” Goldfein said, speaking at the Reagan National Defense Forum. “It’s one of the first times we actually done a classified military strategy with an annex that we have focused on the five global challenges.”

It is not clear if the final version will be presented to President Barack Obama before he leaves office in January.

Dunford gave remarks at thenational defense forum as well, saying that Trump has indicated he wants a review of the fight against ISIS and that he and other officials met with the transition team Wednesday to begin the conversation about possible changes.

Dunford told the audience that “If there is anything I’ll tell you is that we are never complacent about where we are against the threat of the Islamic State.”

He also said while “significant progress” has been made against ISIS limiting the territory it holds and disrupting its external operations “there are some things that we would probably bring in to the new administration for consideration.”

Goldfein’s comments were in response to audience questions about growing concerns about North Korea’s nuclear weapons development program.

“That work is now approaching completion,” Goldfein said. “There is a North Korea annex that is a part of that strategy that we are putting forward that the President-elect will have a chance to look at.”

“It is troubling to see the continuation of movement towards trying to get access to a nuclear weapon,” Goldfein added.

Goldfein would not comment on indications North Korea may be planning an underground nuclear test.

“We don’t know if we have that framework exactly right, because history could suggest that perhaps we are not the best at predicting the next war, what we found as Joint Chiefs is that if we are ready for these then we are likely ready as a pacing option to ensure that this military is ready to be able to support the President with whatever decisions he chooses to make.”

On Iran, Goldfein underscored US military concerns go beyond any potential Iranian nuclear program.

“With respect to Iran specifically, we are quite concerned with the continued malign activity that Iran is engaged in across the region.”

When asked his view about what might happen if a Trump Administration backs out the Iran nuclear deal, Goldfein noted there will still be non-military options to deal with Iran.

“Very often we tend to look through the military lens first and we ask the question through what the military could do,” Goldfein said, suggesting there could still be diplomatic and economic pressure applied to Iran. He offered no opinion on whether he thought the deal should be scrapped.

By Barbara Starr and Alberto Moya