iStock/Thinkstock(MUNICH) -- A teen from Munich is believed to be the suspect in a "possible terror attack" at the Olympia-Einkaufszentrum shopping mall the city, which left nine dead and nearly two dozen others injured Friday, police said.
The Munich Police said that they had found someone connected to the attack who killed himself and there’s a high probability he acted alone. They later said the suspect was 18 years old.
The motive for the attack was unclear, but there was no evidence of other attackers.
The shooting, which left 21 injured, including three seriously, began just after 6 p.m. Friday in a McDonald's restaurant in the mall.
Police said they initially believed that there were up to three different gunmen because of eyewitness accounts. More than 2,000 officers, including the federal police, were mobilized to respond.
All subway services in the city were halted after reports that the suspect fled into the subway, and police appealed to people to clear the streets as they hunt for the gunmen. Public transportation has since been restored.
During a multi-hour manhunt, authorities directed people to avoid Munich's city center and shelter in place, after unconfirmed reports of further shooting.
President Obama was briefed on the situation, and later offered sympathies and pledged support to Germany -- which he described as one of America's closest allies.
In a statement, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said that the U.S. condemned "the apparent terrorist attack" and would "make available any resources that would assist their investigation."
The shopping mall where the shooting took place is located in what was the Olympic Village for the 1972 Munich Olympics, during which 11 Israeli athletes were taken hostage and killed along with a German policeman.
ATSB(NEW YORK) -- After two and a half years and more than 110,000 square kilometers of scouring the floor of the southern Indian Ocean, the hunt Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 will soon come to a close; at least for now.
But some experts say that the debris discovered so far indicates that the plane glided down to the surface of the ocean, instead of falling out of the sky in some way.
In a joint statement from the Malaysian, Australian and Chinese ministers of transportation, the search will be suspended when crews finish the final 10,000 sq km remaining in the current search area.
“Ministers acknowledged that despite the best efforts of all involved, the likelihood of finding the aircraft is fading,” a joint press release said.
They added that this does not mean the end of the search for certain, but “should credible new information emerge which can be used to identify the specific location of the aircraft, consideration will be given in determining next steps.”
The current search area was determined an international panel of scientists and engineers, under the theory that the aircraft, with 239 people on board, ran out of fuel and fell into the ocean.
The quest to find the missing the Boeing 777 has yielded very little results despite several pieces of positively-identified debris washing ashore in Africa.
"While acknowledging the significance of the debris, ministers noted that to date, none of it had provided information that positively identified the precise location of the aircraft."
On Monday, the Australian and Malaysian governments confirmed a wing flap was being examined as possibly being part of MH370.
Experts say the debris discovered so far suggests the jet made a controlled decent and glided down on to the ocean surface.
“What we are finding in parts is more commensurate with the airplane having been ditched by a live pilot, and that would have been probably outside that box someplace,” said John Nance, ABC News aviation consultant and a former Air Force pilot. “That airplane, if so, is largely intact on the bottom somewhere.”
If the theory that someone glided the plane down onto the surface of the ocean is true, it could more than double the size of the search area.
The jet, bound for Beijing, took off from Kuala Lumpur International Airport shortly after midnight, at 12:41 a.m. local time on March 8, 2014.
A couple of actions soon after the flight departed -- turning off the data transmission system and the transponder -- suggest that someone may have been alive and conscious inside the cockpit.
Bolstering this hypothesis is radar data, which shows that four minutes after the transponder shut off, the plane deviated from its planned route, doubling back on itself and flying back over Malaysia, then north along the Strait of Malacca, until it eventually dropped off Malaysian radar.
According to rudimentary satellite data -- the only data available, since the data system and transponder had been shut off -- the aircraft continued flying for about six hours, until it likely ran out of fuel over the Indian Ocean at just after 8:19 a.m. Malaysia time.
iStock/Thinkstock(MUNICH) -- A shooting at a shopping mall in Munich has many recalling a previous incident in the German city more than 40 years ago, not far from where Friday's incident took place.
The 1972 Summer Olympics, dubbed the "Games of Peace and Joy," took a tragic turn when Palestinian terrorists took 11 Israeli Olympic team members hostage. The resulting failed negotiations by the West German police and shootout at the airport left 17 people dead, including some of the perpetrators. All 11 hostages were killed.
ABC News covered the hostage situation and broadcast to the world as the "Games of Peace and Joy" became known as the "Munich massacre."
After the failed negotiation attempts, German authorities tried to ambush the terrorists at an airport. Police attempted the ambush soon after the terrorists and their hostages arrived at the airport by helicopter, where the terrorists were planing on boarding a plane to an Arab nation.
German authorities thought that this would have resulted in certain death for the Israelis, and the decision was made to try and stop them from being taken. Police shooters open fired on the terrorists at the airport, and subsequently the terrorists who were not hit then open fired on the hostages, killing all of them.
For hours, there was a report that all of the hostages had been freed due to what was later blamed on "poor communications," according to ABC News archival videos.
A memorial service attended by 80,000 Olympic fans was covered by Peter Jennings, who described the mood as "a state of shock and devastation." Arab athletes did not attend, according to Jennings, mostly for political reasons. The surviving Israeli team members flew home the following day.
Jennings added that thousands of Germans "had seen their games of serenity turned overnight into the Olympics of terror."
ABC News(NICE, France) -- French authorities in Nice have refused a request from anti-terror police to delete surveillance camera images of last week's deadly truck attack.
The Paris prosecutor's office made the request to reportedly avoid the "uncontrolled dissemination" of images, according to BBC, but officials in Nice say the images are still evidence and should not be destroyed.
The news comes as local and national authorities have been fighting over the scale of police in wake of the attack, according to BBC.
Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel killed 84 people when he drove a truck through a packed crowd on July 14 for a Bastille Day fireworks display.
A French official said Thursday he may have plotted the attack for at least a year and is believed to have had help from at least five others.
Hemera/Thinkstock(ANKARA, Turkey) -- Nearly 60,000 people have been arrested, suspended or fired from their jobs in Turkey since a failed coup led way to a government crackdown aimed at further suppressing dissent in the country, according to some analysts.
Ege Seckin, a political analyst at global analytics firm IHS, said the country is now experiencing a "counter-coup."
“The government is exploiting its popular momentum to eliminate any kind of opposition,” Seckin said. "Their argument is those who have been arrested or suspended are supporters of Fetullah Gulen (a Turkish Islamic scholar who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania). It might be the case for some, but they are casting a very wide net. There’s a difference between those with active ties to the Gulen movement, and those who have had an affiliation in the past, or pass on his messages through education.”
According to Mehmet Yilmaz, a member of Turkey's Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors, the country's top judicial body, the government has been investigating certain individuals for the past two years. Yilmaz told the BBC that nearly 800 judges and prosecutors have been taken into custody, including two members of Turkey's Constitutional Court.
“The violent intervention by members of the same group in military made it clear that they are part of an armed terrorist organization," Yilmaz said, adding, "The risk these people pose is high. We have solid evidence [that these people are members of the Gulen movement] which we will make available.”
One analyst says recent events will deepen "the rift within the security establishment" at a time when Turkey is facing grave regional security concerns.
"There have always been rumors about Gulenist infiltration into the army," Gönül Tol, founding director of the Middle East Institute's Center for Turkish Studies, wrote in a column for The New York Times. "But the high number of generals among the arrested coup plotters [...] indicates a broader participation, possibly including ultra secular and nationalist factions. This suggests a division not only between the secular and the Islamist camp but also within the secular camp in the army."
“The fundamental problem in Turkey is polarization -- between those who support and those who oppose Erdogan. This polarization is worse now and it's a recipe for civil war,” Seckin added.
Turkey’s NATO partners fear that the purges in the military could diminish its capabilities to thwart the threat posed by ISIS.
"This constitutes a major loss of expertise and institutional memory at a time of heightening security challenges," Fadi Hakura, an associate fellow at the London-based think tank Chatham House, wrote on the organization's website. "The government’s replacements of key staff with less qualified loyalists will rupture the institutional integrity and professionalism of the military establishment."
Erdogan has previously attempted to reform the Turkish constitution. While it is too early to assess the long-term impact of his latest actions, the stakes are high. Not only will his next steps affect millions of Turkish people, it could also affect the country’s international commitments in the fight against ISIS and its involvement in the global refugee crisis. White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Turkey’s allies will be “closely watching” Erdogan’s next moves.
Turkey’s parliament approved a three-month state of emergency plan this week, insuring unprecedented executive powers to Erdogan. The measure allows the president and his cabinet to bypass parliament when drafting new laws. Moreover, Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus announced that country was suspending its participation in the European Convention of Human Rights.
While these measures might appear radical, officials have insisted that the lives and freedoms of citizens would not be affected and pointed to France who recently took similar measures following terror attacks in the country.
Samir Hussein/WireImage(LONDON) -- Prince William and Princess Kate released four new photos of Prince George Friday to mark the royal heir's third birthday.
"The Duke and Duchess hope that people will enjoy seeing these new photographs. They would like to thank everyone for all the lovely messages they have received as Prince George celebrates his third birthday," Kensington Palace said in a statement.
The photos were taken at Anmer Hall, the royals' home in Norfolk. They show Prince George with the family dog, Lupo, and on top of a swing engraved with his parents' names in the family's garden.
The photographer, Matt Porteous, said in a statement, "I really enjoyed the opportunity to take these photographs of Prince George. It was a very relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere. I'm honoured they have decided to share these images with the public to mark his third birthday."
George, who is third-in-line to the British throne, will celebrate his birthday Friday with a party fit for a king. Expected guests include George’s uncle Prince Harry and his aunt, the newly-engaged Pippa Middleton.
It is anybody's guess what the little prince might unwrap this year. He is a fan of the British animated kids' shows Fireman Sam and Peppa Pig and the childrens' book The Gruffalo. He is also, according to his parents, obsessed with tractors, planes, trains and anything that flies.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are trying to raise their son away from the prying eyes of the paparazzi and, to the extent possible, provide him with as normal an upbringing as possible.
Instead of a fancy private school, George attends the local Montessori school near his Norfolk home three days per week.
When George is ready for his next school, the royal couple is considering schools for him both in London and Norfolk.
Both William and Harry attended the Weatherby School in Notting Hill, which is a stone's throw from Kensington Palace, the family's London home. Kate and William insist they are also exploring schools in the country near their Anmer Hall home for George.
iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Levi Shirley, a 24-year-old American who volunteered to join forces with a Kurdish rebel group to fight ISIS inside Syria, died in combat earlier this month, his mother said Friday.
"I'm basically in shock right now," Susan Shirley told ABC News after learning from American officials and a rebel commander that her son was killed in combat. Levi joined the Kurdish rebel group known as the YPG, which also announced Levi's death today on it's Facebook page.
Levi Shirley died on July 14 in the heavily contested Syrian town of Manbij, according to the rebel group. The Facebook posting includes a video where Levi – calling himself Jack – speaks about why he went to fight ISIS. “They’re my definition of pure evil," Shirley said. "I don’t think good people in a society can stick other people inside of a cage and set them on fire, so yeah I came here to stop them."
His mother says Levi left in January of this year, telling her he was going to Texas to go to school and learn to become an Emergency Medical Technician. "He would have been an ideal EMT," Susan said. But soon Levi became evasive and fell out of touch. She wasn't entirely sure of where he was until she learned of his death this week. His mother said Levi had fought in Syria last year, but that he had come home after that.
"He knew going back that second time he knew what he was up against," Susan said. "He knew, he didn't have any illusions that war is romantic. When he came back the first time, in fact, he said I am never fighting again."
The U.S. State Department discourages Americans from joining forces with rebel groups such as the YPG. State Department spokesman John Kirby would not publicly discuss the matter, citing privacy concerns. He said only that the State Department was aware of reports that an American was killed inside Syria earlier this month while fighting alongside Kurdish militants.
Shirley is not the first American to fight and die with an unconventional force inside Syria. American Kieth Broomfield died just over a year ago fighting with the same group.
"Even from a tiny kid, he had a big heart," Susan Shirley said Friday. "He has a very strong instinct for defending people. As much as I would have preferred he didn't go back that second time, I do get why he did."
the_guitar_mann/iStock/Thinkstock(ALEPPO, Syria) -- The civilian death toll from suspected U.S.-led airstrikes in northern Syria earlier this week is rising sharply because of a lack of medical facilities to care for those wounded near the besieged city of Manbij, an observing group has warned.
The Syrian Institute for Justice, a nonprofit group that observes and documents cases of human rights violations in Syria, said it initially knew of about 90 civilian deaths resulting from Tuesday’s raids. But since then, many more have died, and the number of fatalities due to airstrikes on Manbij's al-Tukhar village is now at least 210, said Yousef Houran, a co-founder of the group and a resident of nearby Aleppo.
"The number is increasing because of the lack of hospitals or clinics," Houran told ABC News. "Most of the wounded civilians are dying because of the siege."
He said that civilians in the area had relocated to al-Tukhar to seek shelter from airstrikes in Manjib, where some 2000,000 civilians are believed to be living under siege. Some were afraid to sleep in their homes and were sleeping in vehicles when they were killed in the airstrikes, he said.
Nearly two months ago, the Syrian Democratic Forces alliance, a U.S.-backed group of Arab and Kurdish fighters, launched an offensive against ISIS in Manbij and has besieged the town in an attempt to retake it from ISIS. Thursday, U.S.-backed Syrian rebels gave ISIS 48 hours to leave Manbij, according to the AFP news agency.
Airwars, a nonprofit project that aims to document the international air war against ISIS and other groups in Syria and Iraq, listed on its website that 73 to 212 civilians were reported killed in the attack on al-Tukhar.
The numbers make the incident the largest loss of civilian life due to U.S.-led airstrikes in Syria, according to Amnesty International.
"One concern is that usually one would expect that a party to a conflict would be able to improve its civilian casualty, but it looks like the U.S.-led coalition is worsening, particularly in the Manbij area," Neil Sammonds, Amnesty International's lead researcher on Syria, told ABC News. "That's not acceptable. We have laws of war, and the U.S., like everyone else, must do all it can to abide by those laws. They must take all precautions to check if civilians are there and should not use weaponry which is likely to cause damage to areas where more civilians are likely to be killed. They should more closely check information that they are given about presence of civilians and not just assume that if they can't see civilians in a picture from the sky, there are no civilians there."
Amnesty International looked into 11 U.S.-led airstrikes over the last two years and found that they resulted in the killing of 250 to 300 civilians, but the U.S. recognized only five civilian deaths in those incidents, he said. In the past two years, at least 700 civilians have been killed by U.S.-led airstrikes, according to Sammonds, who said that the U.S. recognized only 24 civilian deaths by U.S.-led airstrikes for the same period.
In a statement to ABC News, U.S. Central Command said that it will investigate the reports of civilian deaths.
"We are aware of reports alleging civilian casualties near Manbij, Syria, recently. As with any allegation we receive, we will review any information we have about the incident, including information provided by third parties, such as the proximity of the location to [coalition] airstrikes, and any other relevant information presented. If the information supporting the allegation is determined to be credible, we will then determine the next appropriate step. We take all measures during the targeting process to avoid or minimize civilian casualties or collateral damage and to comply with the principles of the Law of Armed Conflict," the statement read.
dk_photos/iStock/Thinkstock(JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia) -- The U.S. State Department is warning Americans in Saudi Arabia of a "potential, imminent threat against U.S. citizens."
In a security message tweeted by the State Department on Thursday, all U.S. citizens are urged to be aware of their surroundings and to take precautions when traveling in the country, particularly in the city of Jeddah. The threat may have been made against areas of the city "frequented by Westerners, such as markets, restaurants, and shopping malls, among others."
State Department spokesman John Kirby mentioned the alert in a Thursday press briefing, saying only that the message detailed a "potential specific threat to Americans traveling to Jeddah, and in particular, public venues in Jeddah."
The department is also recommending that Americans avoid non-essential travel to Saudi Arabia, or within the country.
The message also says that U.S. government personnel and their families are restricted from travel within 50 miles of the border with Yemen, as well as to the cities of Jizan and Najran, and the city of Qatif in the Eastern Province.
(NICE, France) -- The man who killed 84 innocent people by driving a truck through a packed crowd at a fireworks display in Nice, France, may have plotted the attack for at least a year and is believed to had the help of at least five other people, a French official said Thursday.
Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said authorities found "revealing" online searches and photos on the cellphone and laptop belonging to Nice killer Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel dating back to last year, including photos of the 2015 fireworks display.
Molins said French authorities have five people -- one woman and four men -- in custody who are facing preliminary terrorism charges for allegedly helping Bouhlel.
In a Facebook message from one of the male suspects, he says, "put 2,000 tons of metal in the truck, f--- the brakes, and I'll watch," according to Molins. Surveillance cameras and other photographs link at least two of the men to the truck, Molins said, and one of the men allegedly provided Bouhlel with the firearm he used to shoot at police in the attack.
Bouhlel, a Tunisian living in Nice, was killed by police at the end of his vehicular rampage on July 14. A large, international crowd had gathered at the waterfront in Nice for the fireworks display in honor of Bastille Day, one of France's largest national holidays.
RAJESH JANTILAL/AFP/Getty Images(DURBAN, South Africa) -- Prince Harry on Thursday implored his generation to take leadership in the battle against HIV, just like his late mother, Princess Diana, did 25 years ago.
Harry made the call in a speech at the 2016 International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa, where he was joined by Sir Elton John.
“When my mother held the hand of a man dying of AIDS, no one imagined a quarter century later, HIV positive people would live full healthy loving lives," Harry, 31, told the audience.
Harry is representing his charity, Sentebale, which provides aid to children in Lesotho, in southern Africa. The International AIDS Conference is supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and attracts A-list celebs such as Charlize Theron.
“At the time of the first International AIDS conference, HIV was a death sentence. Treatment was not widely available in the developed world, let alone in poorer regions. Stigma kept HIV positive people from talking openly about their condition and kept vulnerable people from having the courage to step into a clinic and ask for a test," Harry said. "Thanks to the work of leaders in the fight against HIV -- people like Nelson Mandela, Sir Elton John, the brave activists of TAG and ACT UP, people like Dr. Peter Piot, and like my mother, Princess Diana -- we have made huge progress.”
Harry also called for a "new generation of leaders" to take up the cause, saying it is "time for us to step and acknowledge that stigma and discrimination still act as the greatest barrier to us defeating the disease one and for all.”
Before arriving at the conference, Harry spent several days visiting his charity in Lesotho. He saw numerous children who years ago would have been facing a death sentence but, due to his charity’s work, now have a place to go for both medical attention and emotional and psychological support.
Harry shared some of his personal photos from that journey during his speech Thursday.
“It is all too common for a 12-year-old boy or girl to be forced out to work so they can provide for their brothers and sisters, having lost one or both parents to AIDS," he said. "I have spent the last few days visiting our new Momahato Children's Center near Maseru. Our team there created a safe and open environment where young people are encouraged to share their experiences of living with HIV, often for the first time, with their peers."
Harry and Sir Elton John set aside time while in Durban to answer children's questions about the AIDS epidemic and what they are doing to highlight the work that still needs to be done.
Last week, Harry took an HIV test and broadcasted it on Facebook Live. He has made raising awareness around HIV/AIDS the primary focus of his charitable work this year.
"Just imagine what would happen if, in places like Lesotho and throughout Africa, children were given the tools to protect their health, to speak out against stigma and discrimination, and to support their friends and family," Harry said. "In helping young people to fight HIV, we would not just be ending this epidemic, we would change the direction of history for an entire generation."
Cambridge Archaeology Unit(PETERBOROUGH, England) — Archaeologists have uncovered a 3,000-year-old, remarkably well-preserved community near Peterborough, England.
The excavation at Must Farms, by the Cambridge Archaeological Unit, has unearthed a trove of textiles, pottery and tools that reveal new insights into the lives of our ancestors.
The community at Must Farms dates back to the end of the Bronze Age (1000-800 BC), according to the Cambridge Archaeological Unit.
The ancient settlement is especially unique in that it was apparently overtaken by a fire, causing much of the settlement to collapse into the river at which it was built. The sudden destruction, and then subsequent preservation in the river's non-porous silt, caused many of the artifacts to be preserved incredibly well, archaeologist wrote on their online diary, documenting the findings.
The destruction and preservation have caused many to compare the site to Pompeii, the ancient Roman city preserved in volcanic ash after the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius.
“We think those living in the settlement were forced to leave everything behind," Kasia Gdaniec, senior archaeologist of Cambridgeshire County Council, wrote on their website. "An extraordinarily rich range of goods and objects are present in the river deposits.”
Among the findings are pottery that is nearly intact, wheels, axes and decorative beads.
Although the settlement was first discovered in 1999, and a few small excavations took place in 2004 and 2006, the Cambridge Archaeological Unit's dig is the largest and first thorough excavation done at Must Farms. Their excavation began a little less than a year ago and is nearing completed.
iStock/Thinkstock(BRASILIA, Brazil) -- Brazil’s Ministry of Justice announced on Thursday the arrest of 10 alleged ISIS recruits who the ministry says pledged allegiance to the Syria-based terror group and were discussing potential attacks during the Rio Olympics.
Authorities are seeking two additional individuals, Justice Minister Alexandre de Moraes said.
The arrests were made in a series of raids in 10 different states in Brazil, the ministry said. A spokesperson for the ministry told ABC News at least one of the arrested was under 18 years old. Moraes said no specific target was threatened and that while the threat was "minimal," authorities would crack down hard on any suspected plot.
The arrests come just days after an alleged extremist group in Brazil, calling itself Ansar al-Khilafah Brazil, pledged allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. It is unclear if the arrests are linked to Ansar al-Khilafah.
Recently a jihadist on the messaging app Telegram has also called for “lone wolves” to attack in various ways the Rio Olympics, which begin next month.
Following Ansar al-Khilafah’s announcement, however, several counterterrorism experts told ABC News they questioned whether the group was real. ISIS is not known to have much influence in Brazil. There are small pockets of the population that follow Islam, according to a 2010 census, but overall a tiny percentage of the nation is Muslim, much less Islamic extremists.
Only three individuals are said to have traveled from Brazil to Syria or Iraq to fight with extremist groups there, according to The Soufan Group, compared with an estimated 1,700 from France and 250 from the U.S.
As recently as last month, a former counterterrorism official told ABC News that there was “no credible ISIS-related threat to the 2016 games.”
“It’s not impossible, but ISIS has other areas in the world where it is much easier for them to operate,” the former official said.
Still, with the Rio Olympics right around the corner, Brazilian officials reportedly consider the terrorism threat high.
iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Donald Trump raised doubts about whether the United States, under his leadership, would jump to the defense of its NATO allies in Europe if Russia attacked them.
When specifically asked in an interview with The New York Times Wednesday about his views of Russia, Trump said that if it attacked some of the small Baltic states, which are the most recent members of NATO, he would decide whether to come to their aid only after reviewing whether those nations "have fulfilled their obligations to us."
NATO's collective defense agreement requires all member countries to come to the aid of any member state that is attacked.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg responded to Trump’s remarks with a call for unity.
“Solidarity among allies is a key value for NATO," he told Buzzfeed. "This is good for European security and good for U.S. security. We defend one another.”
So what exactly is NATO? ABC News breaks down the organization’s history, importance and criticisms below:
What Is NATO?
NATO stands for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a security alliance established in 1949 during the early days of the Cold War to counter Soviet aggression in Europe.
Now numbering 28 countries in Europe and North America, the alliance’s goal is to “safeguard the freedom and security of its members through political and military means,” NATO’s website reads.
The organization promotes “democratic values” and encourages member nations to work together on issues of defense and security to prevent long-term conflict.
When security disputes occur, NATO advocates peaceful resolutions. But there are guidelines for how military force can be used, outlined in Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, the founding treaty of NATO.
NATO adheres to a policy of collective defense, meaning an attack on one member is considered "an attack against all." The policy is outlined in Article 5 and has only been invoked once, after the Twin Towers in New York City were attacked on Sept. 11, 2001, and NATO members sent troops to Afghanistan.
After the Taliban fell, a United Nations Security Council resolution established the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), under NATO’s control, to stabilize the country. There were 1,044 non-U.S. NATO service members killed fighting in Afghanistan. How Does NATO Work?
Headquartered in Brussels, Belgium, each member nation is represented by an ambassador that sits on the North Atlantic Council (NAC), the alliance’s political decision-making body. The NAC meets at least once a week and is chaired by Secretary General Stoltenberg, the former prime minister of Norway.
When political decisions require the military, NATO’s Military Committee is involved in the planning and resourcing of military elements needed for an operation. While NATO has few permanent military forces, member nations can voluntarily contribute forces when the need arises.
The Military Committee is made up of the Chiefs of Defense of NATO-member countries; the International Military Staff, the Military Committee’s executive body; and the military command structure, composed of Allied Command Operations and Allied Command Transformation.
Where Is NATO Operating Right Now?
Currently, NATO’s website lists five active operations and missions: Afghanistan, Kosovo, counter-piracy off of East Africa, monitoring the Mediterranean, and supporting the African Union.
Who Pays for NATO?
NATO recommends that member countries spend 2 percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) on defense.
Currently, according to the Wall Street Journal, only five members meet that goal: the United States, Great Britain, Greece, Estonia and Poland.
Latvia and Lithuania are two Baltic states that don't meet the target, but those countries are likely to raise their defense spending in the face of growing Russian aggression.
The United States spent the most on defense in 2014, over 3.5 percent of the GDP. That accounts for approximately 75 percent of the military spending by all NATO members, according to the WSJ.
What Is the History Behind Its Origin?
The North Atlantic Treaty was signed on April 4, 1949, in the aftermath of World War II and rising geopolitical tension with the Soviet Union.
NATO’s website lists three purposes for its creation: “deterring Soviet expansionism, forbidding the revival of nationalist militarism in Europe through a strong North American presence on the continent, and encouraging European political integration.”
As the Cold War settled in, NATO stood in opposition to the Soviet bloc, communist nations that allied with the Soviet Union.
In 1991, after the Soviet Union dissolved, NATO developed partnerships with former adversaries.
NATO responded to its first major crisis response operation in 1995 in Bosnia and Herzegovina after the Bosnian Civil War.
More recently, NATO responded to the Libyan crisis in 2011 by carrying out airstrikes to protect civilians under attack by Moammar Gadhafi's regime.
Is Trump Alone in His Criticism of NATO?
No. Trump isn’t the first to criticize other NATO members for contributing less than the United States.
In 2011, Defense Secretary Robert Gates called the future of NATO “dim” if other nations didn’t increase their participation in allied activities.
“The blunt reality is that there will be dwindling appetite and patience in the U.S. Congress -- and in the American body politic writ large -- to expend increasingly precious funds on behalf of nations that are apparently unwilling to devote the necessary resources or make the necessary changes to be serious and capable partners in their own defense,” he said.
It should be noted that Gates made these comments prior to Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014 and escalating regional tension there.
Trump’s criticisms of NATO are not only that member nations aren’t contributing fairly, but also that the organization itself is no longer relevant.
"I think NATO is obsolete," Trump told ABC News in March. "NATO was done at a time you had the Soviet Union, which was obviously larger -- much larger than Russia is today."
NATO’s history is fraught with waves of criticism, often in moments of relative peace. After the fall of the Soviet Union, critics alleged that a European alliance was no longer necessary to counter communist governments. But militant nationalism was still occurring and soon NATO was put to the test with the Balkan Wars. Indeed, changing security threats have consistently pushed NATO to evolve over the past 60 years.
But NATO’s website perhaps provides the best defense of itself:
Since its founding in 1949, the transatlantic Alliance’s flexibility, embedded in its original Treaty, has allowed it to suit the different requirements of different times. In the 1950s, the Alliance was a purely defensive organization. In the 1960s, NATO became a political instrument for détente. In the 1990s, the Alliance was a tool for the stabilization of Eastern Europe and Central Asia through the incorporation of new Partners and Allies. Now NATO has a new mission: extending peace through the strategic projection of security.
This is not a mission of choice, but of necessity. The Allies neither invented nor desired it. Events themselves have forced this mission upon them. Nation-state failure and violent extremism may well be the defining threats of the first half of the 21st century. Only a vigorously coordinated international response can address them. This is our common challenge. As the foundation stone of transatlantic peace, NATO must be ready to meet it.
iStock/Thinkstock(ANKARA, Turkey) -- Turkish authorities have announced they will temporarily stop abiding by the European Convention on Human Rights, arguing that “during times of war or serious public emergency” countries can act outside of their obligations so long as they do not violate international laws.
Turkey ratified the international treaty in 1954 and suspending it means the country would no longer have to follow its laws on torture, for example. In addition, some Turkish government officials have suggested reinstating the death penalty, which has led to criticism abroad.
This comes a day after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the country was implementing a state of emergency for three months following a failed coup last week.
At least 60,000 people, including members of the military, police, judges, civil servants and teachers, have been rounded up after Erdogan vowed that "all the viruses" will be "cleansed."
Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, urged Turkey in a statement to "respond [to the coup] by upholding the rule of law, by strengthening the protection of human rights and by reinforcing democratic institutions."
He added: “In the aftermath of such a traumatic experience, it is particularly crucial to ensure that human rights are not squandered in the name of security and in the rush to punish those perceived to be responsible."
Zeid expressed concern that a large number of judges and prosecutors were suspended and stressed the importance of respecting the presumption of innocence, due process and fair trial guarantees.
The advocacy group Amnesty International said in a statement that it was "investigating reports that detainees in Ankara and Istanbul have been subjected to a series of abuses, including ill-treatment in custody and being denied access to lawyers."
“Those responsible for unlawful killings and other human rights abuses must be brought to justice, but cracking down on dissent and threatening to bring back the death penalty are not justice,” according to the statement.
Turkish politician Mehmet Simsek took to Twitter to assuage those who opposed the decision, pointing out that France also temporarily suspended the treaty following last year's terror attacks in Paris.
"The state of emergency in Turkey won't include restrictions on movement, gatherings and free press. It isn't martial law of 1990s," he tweeted. "I'm confident Turkey will come out of this with much stronger democracy, better functioning market economy & enhanced investment climate."