Overnight Defense: Joint Chiefs chair pledges more transparency on Niger attack | Trump disputes Gold Star widow's account of phone call | Tillerson sees role for Taliban in Afghan government
Overnight Defense: Trump says Iran deal decision coming 'very shortly' | Puerto Rico response delaying Afghan deployments
THE TOPLINE: President Trump said Thursday evening he is close to announcing his decision on whether to decertify the Iran nuclear agreement, reports The Hill's Jordan Fabian.
"You'll be hearing about Iran very shortly," Trump said when asked by reporters if he will certify or decertify the Obama-era agreement.
Trump reiterated his belief that Tehran is not living up to the "spirit" of the deal that it agreed to with the U.S. and five other world powers.
"We must not allow Iran ... to obtain nuclear weapons," the president said during a meeting with military leaders.
"The Iranian regime supports terrorism and exports violence, bloodshed and chaos across the Middle East," he continued. "That is why we must put an end to Iran's continued aggression and nuclear ambitions. They have not lived up to the spirit of their agreement."
Trump faces an Oct. 15 deadline to certify whether Iran is abiding by the terms of the agreement, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which imposes restrictions on its nuclear capabilities in exchange for sanctions relief.
The president has repeatedly railed against the pact, calling it "the worst deal I've ever seen." But the deal has sparked a heated debate inside the administration, with some senior officials arguing he should certify it in the interest of avoiding a new spat with Tehran.
According to reports, Trump is expected to decertify the nuclear deal next week. The Washington Post, citing individuals briefed on an emerging White House strategy, reported that Trump has tentatively scheduled an Oct. 12 speech to lay out a larger strategy on Iran that would open the door to modifying the agreement but hold off on recommending that Congress reimpose sanctions. The Post's sources cautioned that plans are not fully set and could change. Rebecca Kheel has more here.
OFFICIALS SUSPECT ISIS BEHIND NIGER ATTACK: The Pentagon on Thursday confirmed three U.S. Army special operations troops were killed and two were wounded Wednesday night when they came under fire in Niger in an attack suspected to be carried out by Islamic State militants.
Pentagon chief spokeswoman Dana White said the incident happened while the forces were conducting a security advise and assist mission in southwest Niger.
"It's a pretty broad mission with the government of Niger, in order to increase their capability to stand alone and to prosecute violent extremists in the region," said Joint Staff Director Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, who spoke alongside White at a Pentagon briefing.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, which took place during a routine training mission along the border between Niger and Mali. The nearly dozen Army Green Berets and 20 Nigerien soldiers were ambushed in the village of Tongo Tongo, about 120 miles north of the capitol city of Niamey.
HURRICANE RESPONSE DELAYS AFGHANISTAN DEPLOYMENTS: Troop deployments to Afghanistan and elsewhere have been delayed by the hurricane response effort in Puerto Rico, Pentagon officials confirmed Thursday.
"There's a finite number of U.S. transport aircraft that U.S. Transportation Command has. We're moving things to Puerto Rico, we're doing a variety of things to help down there," Joint Staff Director Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie told reporters at the Pentagon.
"Given the fact that we have a finite number of transport aircraft, that will inevitably slow movement to other theaters. The slight delay in moving forces to Afghanistan is sort of a natural component of that," McKenzie explained.
Defense Secretary James Mattis on Tuesday said the Pentagon had "all hands on deck" and "no lack of resources" in aiding Puerto Rico after Hurricanes Irma and Maria pounded the island last month.
ARMED TROOPS CHAIRMAN COMPARES VEGAS SHOOTING DEATHS TO TROOPS KILLED IN ACCIDENTS: House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) on Thursday compared the number of troops killed in training accidents this year to the number of people killed in this week's Las Vegas mass shooting to argue for an increase in military spending.
"It's alarming to me these trends. ... We have, give or take five, we have lost as many service members in 2017 to accidents as were killed in Las Vegas, just for some perspective, and many more that have been killed in combat," Thornberry told reporters at a breakfast roundtable at the Heritage Foundation, a comparison he repeated in his public keynote at the conservative think tank.
Fifty-eight people were killed Sunday when a gunman opened fire on a country music festival in Las Vegas, the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.
In the military, there have been a slew of high-profile accidents this year.
The Hill's Rebecca Kheel has more here.
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