To help Hill staffers make the most of the Congressional recess, RAND has developed a list of must-read research and commentaries that will help ensure policymakers will return ready to hit the ground running.
Airstrikes have hit ISIL tanker trucks, oil fields, refineries, and banks, but it would be a mistake to view the group as a poor man's version of its old self. New steps are needed to counter its multi-million dollar taxation and extortion machine.
Would counterterrorism forces be better served by containing terrorist groups instead of attempting to destroy them? Dismantling and destroying the Islamic State and similar organizations is a worthy strategic goal, but policymakers must also be prepared to limit the effectiveness of splinter groups as they emerge in the aftermath.
ISIL has been forced out of 56 places it once controlled, including five major cities. Taking its territory and diminishing its brand is required to reduce the group's operational capacity for carrying out or influencing local or distant attacks.
The Istanbul attack will renew calls to extend existing security screening at the front doors of terminals. But checkpoints create bottlenecks and queues of people waiting to get through them, which then become an easy target.
There has been growing concern that terrorists might use radiological sources to create a Radiological Dispersal Device (RDD). Calculations have shown that an attack would be unlikely to produce radioactive contamination sufficient to kill or even injure anyone, but there would be psychological and economic effects.
Islamic State training camps are the breeding grounds of tomorrow's Brussels or Paris attacks, and their consistent penchant for training foreigners suggests that military and security officials need to get serious about how to deal with returnees from Iraq and Syria.
The Islamic State's loss of territory, money, and recruits would seem to demonstrate significant progress by the U.S.-led coalition. But if there is one accepted truism in the battle against the group, it is that its leaders intend to fight to the death to establish an Islamic caliphate.
The mostly non-Iraqi voices who want to divide the country into three ethno-sectarian cantonments—Shi'a, Sunni, and Kurd—owe the Iraqi people extensive, detailed clarification. If neither the Iraqi Arab polity nor Iraq's most powerful political factions seek three-way partition, then the case should be closed.
What effect did killing bin Laden have on al Qaeda's ability to pursue its jihadist goals? Does high-value targeting contribute to counterterrorist strategy more broadly? Does killing terrorist leaders work?
The United States and its NATO allies have been scaling back their military commitment in Afghanistan. The Taliban, in response, have been scaling up their operations, inflicting unprecedented heavy casualties on Afghan government forces and gaining increased control over much of the countryside.