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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The narrative and goals for what has become America’s longest war have shifted in the past 16 years, and they may take a new turn Monday night, as President Donald Trump is expected to announce his policy approach for Afghanistan.

The war started in October 2001 in the wake of the September 11th attacks, under then-President George W. Bush, and after Obama, Trump is now the second president to inherit -- and have to make a decision on how to handle -- the ongoing conflict.

When Bush first announced the military action on Oct. 7, 2001, he described “strikes against al Qaeda terrorist training camps and military installations of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.”

"These carefully targeted actions are designed to disrupt the use of Afghanistan as a terrorist base of operations, and to attack the military capability of the Taliban regime,” Bush said in an address from the Treaty Room of the White House.

The timing of the military action is key, as Bush’s announcement came 27 days after coordinates terror attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in the U.S.

"The very original reason and the impetus was 9/11,” said Vanda Felbab-Brown, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, She notes how the belief that “the Taliban was sheltering al Qaeda” drove the focus on Afghanistan specifically.

"The counterterrorism objective became the dominant principle reason for the effort in Afghanistan,” she added.

Felbab-Brown summarized the Bush team’s initial approach as being, simply put, that they would “’just topple the Taliban and get out’… hence the minimal design of the original operations, the minimal force approach that [then-Secretary of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld promoted.”

"But very quickly, even the George W. [Bush] administration realized that this was problematic -- that it wasn’t just enough to topple the Taliban, and that it had to leave behind some sort of stable government. But both the W. administration and the Obama administration, and now the Trump administration have been debating that: what is required of the counter terrorism objective,” she said.

Expanding the goals

Part of the problem has been that the role of the counterterrorism objective expanded, Felbab-Brown said, noting how "a lot of other interests were added as the mission was developing."

One such addition was the fight for and promotion of women's rights in Afghanistan, a cause that became a big part of then-first lady Laura Bush's agenda. She gave the president's weekly radio address on Nov. 17, 2001, on the topic, and it coincided with the release of a report titled "Report on the Taliban's War Against Women" by the State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.

"Afghan women know, through hard experience, what the rest of the world is discovering: the brutal oppression of women is a central goal of the terrorists," Laura Bush said in her radio address.

"Civilized people throughout the world are speaking out in horror -- not only because our hearts break for the women and children in Afghanistan, but also because in Afghanistan we see the world the terrorists would like to impose on the rest of us," she said.

”Not a war of choice”

The theme of the obligation of the war in Afghanistan was seen in speeches by both Bush and Obama. Even in his original Oct. 7 address, Bush said "we did not ask for this mission, but we will fulfill it.”

A similar sentiment was echoed by Obama eight years later, when he called it a war of necessity during a speech to a Veterans of Foreign Wars group.

"We must never forget: this is not a war of choice. This is a war of necessity. Those who attacked America on 9/11 are plotting to do so again. If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which Al Qaeda would plot to kill more Americans,” Obama said in an Aug. 17, 2009, speech. “So this is not only a war worth fighting. This is fundamental to the defense of our people.”

Felbab-Brown notes that this speech was in keeping with a larger contrast that Obama painted between Afghanistan and Iraq, indication that the conflict in Afghanistan is necessary, while the one in Iraq is “the bad war,” she said.

"[Obama] wanted to get out” of Afghanistan, Felbab-Brown said, adding that “he tried” but was unable to, largely because the question of what the goal of the counterterrorism operation was lingered.

"The core interest is still the counterterrorism objective, but how one goes about achieving it has been a major source of debate for W., Obama and now Trump,” she said.

Trump’s exact plans have been unknown since he took office. Because of his lack of specifics on the issue in the past, it is not exactly clear what changes – if any – are called for.

"During the campaign, Trump spoke almost not at all about Afghanistan. It was a non-issue,” she said.

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ABC News(BARCELONA) -- Spanish authorities announced that Younes Abouyaaqoub, the suspected driver in a deadly vehicle attack in Barcelona that killed 13 people, was shot and killed Monday. He was wearing what appeared to be an explosive belt at the time, police said.

Earlier this morning, police named Abouyaaqoub as the driver of a van that plowed down Barcelona's crowded Las Ramblas promenade Thursday, killing 13 and injuring many more.

Si vous avez des informations sur l'attentat terroriste à #Barcelona #Cambrils or 📞937285220

— Mossos (@mossos) August 21, 2017
Authorities say Abouyaaqoub escaped the scene on foot, then carjacked a vehicle, killing the driver, authorities said.

He then ran up against a roadblock south of Barcelona and abandoned the car in Sant Just Desvern, a town not far from the city, authorities said.

This is a breaking story. Please check back for updates.

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Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- The Kremlin announced Monday that Russian President Vladimir Putin appointed Anatoly Antonov as Russia’s ambassador to the United States, replacing Sergey Kislyak.

The move comes as the U.S. embassy in Moscow has announced it is suspending all non-immigrant visa processing for Russians until Sept. 1 in response to the staff cuts ordered by the Kremlin.

In a statement on its site, the embassy said operations for all visas applications in Moscow will resume after Sept. 1 but that they will remain suspended indefinitely at the three U.S. consulates elsewhere in the country.

The embassy statement says the step is necessary “due to the Russian government-imposed cap on U.S. diplomatic personnel in Russia.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov responded to the announcement today during a press conference, saying, "I think a political factor is obvious to everyone here.” He said he had “just familiarized” himself with the decision and that “we will certainly look into it."

"As for our countermeasures, as I've said, we should take a closer look at the decisions that the Americans have announced today,” Lavrov said. “We'll see. I can only say one thing: We won't take it out on American citizens.”

He added: "That is, if someone hoped that a bad example would be contagious in this case, they are mistaken.”

On July 28 Russia ordered the U.S. embassy to cut its staff by 755 in retaliation for the U.S. sanctions imposed on Moscow by Congress. The State Department hasn’t confirmed the numbers, but it’s believed that the embassy employs around 1,300 people; however, only around 400 employees are American. U.S. officials have said the cuts would fall primarily on Russian local hires and that this would almost certainly affect visa operations at the embassy.

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US Navy/Petty Officer 3rd Class James Vazquez(WASHINGTON) -- A Navy guided-missile destroyer, the USS John S. McCain, collided with a commercial vessel east of Singapore early Monday morning local time, the Navy said.

There were 10 sailors missing and five injured, the Navy said.

The collision with the merchant ship Alnic MC occurred east of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore at 6:24 a.m. Japan Standard Time, as the McCain was on its way for a routine port visit in Singapore, the Navy said.

"Initial reports indicate John S. McCain sustained damage to her port side aft," the Navy said, adding that a search and rescue mission was already underway.

The ship is currently sailing under its own power and heading to port, according to a Navy statement.

The search and rescue effort was being aided by tug boats out of Singapore, as well as the Singapore Navy ship RSS Gallant, Singapore navy helicopters and a Police Coast Guard vessel.

MV-22 Ospreys and SH-60 Seahawks from the USS America are also responding, the Navy said.

Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, tweeted: "Our first priority is determining the safety of the ship and crew. As more information is learned, we will share it."

Malaysia's navy chief Ahmad Kamarulzaman Ahmad Badaruddin tweeted a photo of the damaged ship on its way to Singapore after the collision, and announced that the country was sending ships and aircraft to assist in the search and rescue.


Navy, Airforce and MMEA ships and aircrafts tasked to assist in #USSJohnSMcCain SAR off Johor

— Chief of Navy - PTL (@mykamarul) August 21, 2017


The John S. McCain, which has a crew of 23 officers, 24 chief petty officers and 291 sailors, is based at the 7th Fleet's homeport of Yokosuka, Japan, according the Navy's website.

Sen. John McCain tweeted that he and his wife Cindy McCain "are keeping America's sailors aboard the USS John S McCain in our prayers tonight - appreciate the work of search & rescue crews." The ship is named for both his grandfather, John Sidney McCain Sr., and his father, John Sidney McCain Jr.

This latest incident comes just two months after the USS Fitzgerald's collision with a Philippine-flagged container ship in the middle of the night off the coast of Japan. Seven U.S. sailors lost their lives in that incident and just last week the Navy relieved the USS Fitzgerald's commanding officer, executive officer and senior enlisted sailor for mistakes that led to a deadly crash.

In May, the USS Lake Champlain, a guided missile cruiser, collided with a fishing boat in the Sea of Japan. There were no injuries. The Navy ship tried to alert the fishing boat before the collision but it was too late.

In February, the USS Antietam, also a guided missile cruiser, ran aground off the coast of Japan, damaging its propellers and spilling oil into the water.

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JAVED TANVEER/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Trump is set to deliver a primetime address to the American people on Monday night, outlining the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan.

The president was presented with a variety of options, including withdrawing all American troops or adding 3,900 more to the current 8,400 total.

Here is a look at the options considered by the Trump administration for what is now being called the South Asia strategy.

What is the South Asia strategy?

The Trump administration has been debating for months what strategy to pursue in Afghanistan. The debate originally focused on the U.S. military's role in Afghanistan and a request for additional American troops to advise and assist the Afghan military fighting the Taliban and the ISIS affiliate in that country.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told Congress in June that he believed the administration would formulate its Afghanistan strategy by mid-July.

But that deadline came and went because Trump's national security team debated whether the strategy should be broader in scope.

It has evolved into what is now known as the South Asia strategy, and it includes the regional implications for neighboring countries like Pakistan, India, China and Russia. The strategy would also look at what role these countries can play in reversing Taliban gains on the battlefield.

Mattis told reporters Thursday that a Camp David meeting with Trump's national security team will "move this toward a decision." Mattis, however, did not say that a final decision would be made on Friday, only noting that a decision will occur in "the very near future."

Will more American troops head to Afghanistan?

A lot of the attention initially focused on whether the Trump administration would add more U.S. troops.
In February, Gen. John Nicholson, the senior U.S. commander in Afghanistan, told Congress the fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan was "a stalemate" and that he would like additional troops to enhance the advise and assist mission being carried out by 8,400 American troops and 5,000 NATO forces.

Those troops would buttress the advise and assist mission helping the Afghan military fighting the Taliban, as well as add additional firepower to the counterterrorism mission against ISIS and al Qaeda.
U.S. officials have said that Mattis favors a Pentagon proposal to send 3,900 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan.

One official said as recently as this week that recommendations were still being made as to what kinds of U.S. military support those additional troops could provide.

But Mattis has been firm that the debate over an Afghanistan strategy should be more than just a decision about whether or not to send more American troops.

Military officials are now evaluating whether neighboring countries can play a role in the strategy. For example, it’s clear the administration wants Pakistan to do more on its side of the border to take on the resurgent Taliban and ISIS-Khorasan.

The internal debate has also broadened into a discussion of whether American troops should remain in Afghanistan.

What are the options?

Last week, Trump said he would be making a decision soon on Afghanistan.

"I've been looking at it," he said. "It's our longest war in history, 17 years. That's unacceptable."
Trump is said to have been dissatisfied with the original strategy review and the request for more American troops, one reason why his national security team has developed additional options.

Mattis said on Monday the Pentagon is still working on options for the president.

"We're sharpening each one of the options, so you can see the pluses and minuses of each one," Mattis said. "So that there's no longer any new data you're going to get."

Another option would shift a portion of the U.S. military role to private military contractors.

When asked specifically about that option, Mattis responded, "It's part of the options being considered, and the president's open to the advice of the secretary of state and myself and the director of the CIA."

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iStock/Thinkstock(BARCELONA) -- Spanish authorities are still searching for the man they suspect of driving the white van that plowed down pedestrians in Barcelona, Spain, on Thursday, killing more than a dozen.

An official said clothing seen on Younes Abouyaaqoub on CCTV 18 hours before the attack matched descriptions given by eyewitnesses, which led police to believe he was the driver in the attack.

Authorities believe the suspect may have fled the country after allegedly using his credit card to pay for the three vehicles involved in the attack. According to police, Abouyaaqoub's ID was found in the van that crashed into a crowd of people.

Police have heightened security on both sides of the border with France as the manhunt continues, with a greater police presence at major tourist spots.

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Billy H.C. Kwok/Getty Images(HONG KONG) -- Tens of thousands of protestors marched through the streets of Hong Kong after three pro-democracy advocates were sentenced to jail.

Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow were given jail terms between six and eight months on charges of "unlawful assembly." They were previously given non-custodial sentences after being involved with the 2014 mass protests.

Supporters of the three activists said the judicial process was influenced by politics.

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U.S. Navy photo/Released(NEW YORK) -- The wreckage of the USS Indianapolis has been located more than 70 years after it was sunk by Japanese torpedoes during World War II

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen announced Saturday that the research team from his company, Vulcan, searched 600 square miles of ocean using information discovered by a Navy historian who found records of the last recorded sighting of the Indianapolis. 

Important chapter of WWII history concludes--I hope survivors/families gain some closure. Anchor and ship's bell seen here. #USSIndianapolis

— Paul Allen (@PaulGAllen) August 19, 2017

The sinking of the Indianapolis in July 1945 was one of the worst naval disasters in American history.
Torpedoed by a Japanese submarine after delivering atomic bomb components, the ship sank in only 12 minutes, so was unable to call for distress or deploy lifesaving equipment, according to a Navy press release.

Only 316 members of the crew survived while the other 880 sailors and Marines died either when the boat sank or after spending days in the water.

Survivors from the Indianapolis told harrowing stories about the days they spent in the water after the ship sank. Former Marine Corp. Edgar Harrell told the Indianapolis Star that many of the survivors were hurt, badly dehydrated, and that some were killed by sharks.

The story has inspired several books and movies and was the subject of a speech by Robert Shaw's character in the movie Jaws.

Allen's research team found the wreckage 18,000 feet underwater in the North Pacific Ocean using a specialized submarine-like research vessel and has located several other historic ships. Allen has been called one of the world's top philanthropists for his contributions to research and conservation, according to his website.

The research team will continue to survey the site in collaboration with the Navy but the location will not be released, according to the Navy. It is being treated as a sunken war grave and the team will work with the Navy on plans to honor the families and the 22 surviving crew members.

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iStock/Thinkstock(TURKU, Finland) -- A stabbing in the Finnish city of Turku on Friday that left two people dead and eight others injured is now being investigated as acts "with terrorist intent," Finland's national police announced Saturday morning.

The suspect -- whom police identified as an 18-year-old Moroccan citizen but did not release his name -- stabbed the 10 individuals with a weapon, police said.

Authorities fired a single shot that hit the suspect in the thigh. The suspect is in police custody and is being treated at the hospital, police said.

Finnish police later declared that it's "now safe to be in the city."

Police announced Saturday morning that the deceased victims were Finns, while the injured included one Italian and two Swedes.

Finland's interior minister said security is being stepped up across the country.

Authorities are continuing to investigate the case, including the suspect’s identity and motive.

Meanwhile, one person was killed and one person was injured in a stabbing attack in the German city of Wuppertal-Elberfeld on Friday, according to police. Wuppertal police are still searching for the suspects related to the stabbings.

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Morris MacMatzen/Getty Images(FRANCE) -- French first lady Brigitte Macron is speaking out about the 25-year age difference between her and husband Emmanuel Macron, France's 39-year-old president.

"There are times in your life where you need to make vital choices," Brigitte, 64, tells Elle France's September issue of her relationship with her husband, whom she first met about 20 years ago and married in 2007. "And for me, that was it. So, what has been said over the 20 years -- it's insignificant."

#ELLEenKiosque "Le seul défaut d’Emmanuel, c’est d’être plus jeune que moi" #BrigitteMacron dans ELLE cette semaine

— ELLE (@ELLEfrance) August 16, 2017

She added, "Of course, we have breakfast together -- me and my wrinkles, him with his youth -- but it's like that. If I did not make that choice, I would have missed out on my life. I had a lot of happiness with my children and, at the same time, felt I had to live 'this love,' as Prévert used to say, to by fully happy."

Brigitte Macron appears on the cover of Elle France wearing a cream-colored Dior blazer over a white T-shirt, faded blue Saint Laurent jeans and a pair of pointy-toe blue suede stilettos. She was photographed by Mark Seliger at the Élysée Palace.

The age difference between the Macrons is similar to that of President Donald Trump, 71, and wife Melania Trump, 47.

Brigitte Macron told Elle France that she had a tough time with the criticism her marriage received during the French election.

"I ended by telling myself, 'OK, I do not take it well, but I have to deal with it. After, it will pass,' " said Brigitte Macron, in her first major interview since her husband became France's leader.

The Macrons are also currently under scrutiny, as they are experiencing resistance to Emmanuel Macron's push to formalize his wife's role as first lady.

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Pau Barrena/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- American Jared Tucker was among the 13 people killed in Thursday's vehicle-ramming attack in Barcelona, his family has confirmed.

A spokesperson for Tucker's family said in a statement Friday, "At present Jared's wife Heidi is not issuing a statement and will issue a formal statement tomorrow. For now, she asks that the community and media hold their family up in prayer and asks for the privacy during this difficult time."

Tucker's father later revealed in an emotional interview with ABC News how the family learned of his death.

Dan Tucker said his son was vacationing with his wife Heidi in Barcelona where they were staying with a good friend. All three were out walking along the city's Las Ramblas boulevard when Jared separated from them to find a bathroom. Minutes later, a white van veered onto the crowded street and mowed down pedestrians.

Heidi and the friend weren't injured in the attack, Dan said, but Jared was nowhere to be found. Later, the Tucker family saw a video of a person laying on the ground after the attack who was wearing a blue shirt and tan pants, and Heidi told them that's what Jared was wearing at the time.

"There was a person kneeling beside him and so we thought, 'That's a good sign. He's probably hurt but not seriously injured,'" Dan told ABC News with tears in his eyes. "But ... it became more and more obvious that Jared couldn't be found."

The Tucker family learned Friday morning that Heidi had been called into the U.S. Consulate General in Barcelona where officials showed her pictures of a body and she confirmed it was her husband Jared.

"Now she's on her way over to the morgue," Dan said.

The grieving father told ABC News he and his son were "really close," and their family is struggling to make sense of the tragedy.

"It's been hard, it's been bitter. But I don't know what my feelings are," Dan said." I'm not angry so much, I just don't understand it. And my wife's in shock; it's a lot harder for her."

Dan said he and his wife are grateful to be surrounded by family, friends and members of their church who are helping them get through this difficult time.

"I don't know how people handle something like this when they don't have a support group," he told ABC News. "We've got a huge support group and it's been really nice to have that."

Earlier Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson confirmed that the Department of State had "received word and confirmed the death of one American citizen in the terrorist attack in Spain." U.S. officials are "still confirming the injuries and deaths of others," he added.

"Hate is not an American value," Tillerson told reporters.

Spanish authorities said they have detained four people in connection to both the incident in Cambrils early Friday that killed at least one person and the vehicle attack Thursday in Barcelona that killed 13. More than 100 others were injured.

A State Department official told ABC News another American citizen was injured in Spain.

"The U.S. Consulate General in Barcelona continues to work with local authorities to identify and provide assistance to U.S. citizens affected by the terrorist attacks in Las Ramblas and Cambril. At this time, we can confirm that one U.S. citizen was killed," the official said in a statement Friday. "We also can confirm that another U.S. citizen sustained a minor injury. Spanish authorities report that there are still several casualties who are not yet identified. Out of respect for the families’ privacy in their time of grief, we have no further comment."

According to a preliminary assessment by Spanish authorities, those injured and killed in the attacks represented at least 34 different nationalities.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Thursday expressed solidarity with the victims and their families, describing the attack in Barcelona as "jihadist terrorism."

Those responsible for the rampage will be brought to justice, he said, stressing that the response to terrorism must be global.

Rajoy said Barcelona residents are suffering "the same pain and the same uncertainty" as their neighbors in Madrid, Paris, Nice, Brussels and London, referencing other European cities that have also been subject to deadly terror attacks.

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@Vil_Music/Twitter (BARCELONA) -- Fourteen people are dead, including one American, and more than 100 others are injured following a series of terror attacks in Spain.

Police have linked four events in Spain to the same group of individuals: a home explosion in the town of Alcanar; a driver who mowed down pedestrians in Barcelona; an attack in the coastal town of Cambrils; and an abandoned vehicle that was recovered by police.

Five suspects are dead and four people have been detained in connection with the attacks, police said.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Friday morning announced that one American was among the dead.

"We express our deepest love and sympathy to the loved ones of this individual and obviously to others who have suffered loss of life," he said.

He added, "We offer our thoughts and prayers to their families as they're going to be dealing with very very tough few days ahead of them."

Spain is now holding three national days of mourning.

Here is how the tragic events unfolded:

A home explodes in Alcanar, Spain

On Wednesday a house exploded in Alcanar, a town about 200 kilometers from Barcelona, killing one person, injuring others and causing part of the building to collapse.

Pedestrians mowed down in Barcelona

On Thursday, 13 people were killed and more than 100 were injured when a driver in a white van mowed down pedestrians on La Rambla, a Barcelona boulevard popular with tourists and locals.

Brendon Sissing, a tourist who witnessed the attack, told ABC News he heard screams of people to his left, and when he looked up, he saw a van driving at what he estimated to be 50 to 60 miles per hour.

The van knocked people over, and some people were under the van, but the driver "just kept going," Sissing said. The driver stopped opposite to where Sissing was standing, he said, and then kept driving.

Sissing ran into a shop, he said. When he left, he heard about five gunshots, so he ran into a second building where there were construction workers.

Witness Alec Rugo said when he saw "stampede of people" running toward him. He said he "ran with the crowd" until he found a place to take cover.

"I had no idea what was happening, I just saw people running and screaming, and saw this one girl with a huge gash on her leg," Rugo said. "It was something out of a movie scene."

The driver eventually abandoned the car and ran, police said.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the Barcelona attack.

Another car attack in Cambrils, Spain

Hours after the Barcelona attack, one person died and several others were injured when five suspects, armed with knives and fake suicide vests, tried to run people down in an Audi A3 in Cambrils, a coastal resort town about 140 kilometers from Barcelona.

The car hit several people, and one woman was killed. A police officer was also injured.

The five attackers died from a shootout with police.

Authorities said the phony suicide vests were only determined to be fake after a controlled explosion.

The aftermath

Police said they believe these incidents, including an abandoned vehicle that was recovered, are all connected to the same group of people.

Police say the attacks were planned for some time in Alcanar, and they could have been much worse. Josep Lluis Trapero, a senior police official with regional Catalan police, implied that the explosives that demolished the house would have likely been used in an attack.

Trapero said the attackers may have been planning at least one more attack.

Trapero said Friday police have still not conclusively identified the driver of the van in the Barcelona attack, who is believed to be at-large, but he added that one of the five attackers in Cambrils could be the Barcelona driver.

Officials say the Barcelona van was rented in the name of 28-year-old Moroccan-born Driss Oukabir, who was taken into custody within hours of the attack. Oukabir claimed his license had been stolen. Multiple Spanish law enforcement sources told ABC News Driss has been released, and the investigation is now focused on his younger brother as the possible driver.

Police have already identified three of the Cambrils attackers and say they hope to identify the others soon.

So far those identified have no known ties to terror, but do have criminal records, police said.

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Staff Sgt. Steven Schneider/U.S. Army (SEOUL) -- U.S. and South Korean forces are preparing for a joint military exercise just weeks after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un threatened to launch missiles toward Guam.

For months, the U.S. and South Korea have been planning for Ulchi Freedom Guardian, an annual exercise that will involve 14,500 U.S. service members stationed on the Korean Peninsula and an additional 3,000 who will travel to participate. It is a "computer simulated defensive exercise designed to enhance readiness, protect the region and maintain stability on the Korean peninsula," the Pentagon said on Friday.

The exercise, which begins on Monday, will occur amidst heightened rhetoric between Kim and President Donald Trump over the country's nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

On August 8, Trump threatened North Korea with "fire and fury like the world has never seen," touching off a war of words between the two governments.

Kim said he would consider sending missiles into the waters off the coast of Guam in "mid-August." Guam is a U.S. island territory that is home to two American military bases.

But, after reviewing those plans, Kim ultimately decided he would “watch a little more the foolish and stupid conduct of the Yankees," seeming to walk back an imminent threat to the island and de-escalating tensions on the Peninsula -- at least for now.

In the week following the conclusion of Ulchi Freedom Guardian in 2016, North Korea conducted its fifth nuclear test. After this year's exercise concludes, the U.S. will most certainly be keeping a close eye on what the regime chooses to do.

Several U.S. officials told ABC News recently that the U.S. has not seen any activity in North Korea that would indicate an imminent missile launch. North Korea has already launched eleven ballistic missile tests so far in 2017.

As was the case in 2016, the North Koreans are expected to be informed of the "non-provocative" nature of Ulchi Freedom Guardian prior to its start.

In March, the U.S. and South Korea conducted another annual joint military exercise called Foal Eagle, which included air, naval, and special operations field exercises. In response to that exercise, North Korea threatened a "merciless attack."

There are more than 28,000 U.S. service members stationed in South Korea. Their motto is "Fight Tonight," reflecting their commitment to help defend South Korea from North Korean aggression at a moment's notice.

"While our State Department is making every effort to resolve this global threat through diplomatic means, it must be noted that the combined allied militaries now possess the most precise, rehearsed and robust defensive and offensive capabilities on earth," Defense Secretary James Mattis said last week. "The DPRK regime's actions will continue to be grossly overmatched by ours and would lose any arms race or conflict it initiates."

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ABC News(BARCELONA, Spain) -- American tourist Shari Weise was walking along the popular Las Ramblas boulevard in Barcelona on Thursday when she suddenly heard the sound of banging metal.

A white van was mowing down pedestrians, and Weise saw "bodies fly up into the air" and a sea of people fleeing for their lives, she told ABC News' David Muir in an interview Friday on Good Morning America.

Weise was about to jump out of the vehicle's deadly path when she saw a teenage boy standing "like a deer in the headlights."

"He just froze, and I could tell in his face he didn't know what to do," Weise said. "I pulled him with me, and we crouched down together on the ground."

Another witness, Brendon Sissing, who was also on Las Ramblas at that time, told ABC News he heard some commotion before turning to see a vehicle barreling through the crowd.

"I heard screams of people to my left and when I looked up saw the white van, and it must have been doing 80 to 100 kilometers [about 50 to 60 miles] an hour down a pedestrian walkway, and just knocking people over at high speed," Sissing said in an interview soon after the attack.

"I heard the loud hum of like an engine. It sounded like the driver was flooring it. Basically before I saw the van, I heard it," Shirazinia said. "And then I saw this white van, looked like a utility vehicle, kind of going as fast as it could down the promenade in a zigzag motion, basically aiming for whatever that was in its path. I just saw it plow into everyone."

"It was like being an extra in a Hollywood movie, except it was real," he said. "When I witnessed the aftermath, then it sunk in ... I'll never forget some of the images."

At least 13 people were killed and more than 100 were injured in the Barcelona vehicle rampage, according to Spanish authorities.

Weise, a 54-year-old mother from California who was in the city with her brother, said she didn't have much time to think when she saw the vehicle racing toward her.

"There's a car coming at me, there's people everywhere. I almost didn't have time for emotion," she said in the interview on GMA. "All I thought about was, 'I don't want to get killed, I have kids, I have to get out of the way.'"

Weise said she decided to cut short her European vacation and return home following the attack.

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Subscribe To This Feed -- The motto of the more than 28,000 U.S. forces stationed in South Korea -- "fight tonight" -- emphasizes their readiness to mount a defense against a North Korean threat at any time.

ABC News' Chief Global Affairs Correspondent Martha Raddatz saw how seriously U.S. forces take that saying while accompanying service members on a F-16 flight along the North Korean border this week.

Raddatz participated in a training operation with the 36th Fighter Squadron, a part of the 51st Fighter Wing, which simulated a North Korean invasion into South Korea.

The F-16 crew practiced giving backup to ground troops in need of close air support by conducting fake strikes on air defenses and tanks from a restricted air space known as P-518, which is just 10 miles from the North Korean border and as close as U.S. pilots can get to the regime's territory.

While no bombs were dropped during the simulation, a real Army unit was on the ground calling in the fake airstrikes.

The purpose of the restricted air space is to control aviation operations and prevent “inadvertent overflight of non-friendly borders,” according to U.S. Forces Korea.

"It must be strange, we're not really in a war zone, but it could happen at any time," Raddatz said to the pilot, call sign "True" Daniels, during the flight mission.

"I'll tell you, it definitely gives you a real purpose for waking up in the morning," Daniels responded, adding, "And that's our mission here, is to be ready to fight at a moment's notice."

The 36th Fighter Squadron flies approximately 170 sorties, or flight missions, from Osan Air Base in South Korea every week.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.




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