Counterterrorism

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Terrorism has been a long-standing challenge for the international community. With its significant body of work on terrorism, RAND has an impressive record of advising the public on individual preparedness, first responders on crisis management, and policymakers on counterterrorism strategies at home and abroad.

  • Peshmerga soldiers provide security during react-to-contact training near Irbil, Iraq, October 2015, photo by Spc. Tristan Bolden/U.S. Army

    Report

    Countering ISIL Requires a Stronger U.S.-Coalition Strategy

    Apr 20, 2016

    While the campaign against ISIL has degraded the group by targeting its leadership and retaking a portion of territory, achieving lasting defeat of ISIL in Iraq and Syria will require increased effort by the U.S. to help train local forces to hold territory. Also, political agreements must be forged to resolve key drivers of conflict among Iraqis and Syrians.

  • Saudi Defense Minister Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (center) poses with chiefs of staff of the Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism in Riyadh, March 27, 2016, photo by Faisal Al Nasser/Reuters

    Report

    A Saudi-Led Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism Could Benefit U.S. Interests

    Apr 19, 2016

    A military alliance of Muslim-majority nations to fight terrorism poses no danger to U.S. interests. In fact, the Saudi-led initiative could be helpful in several ways beyond current levels of cooperation.

Explore Counterterrorism

  • People stand near damaged aid supplies after an airstrike on September 20 on the rebel held Urem al-Kubra town, western Aleppo city, Syria, September 23, 2016

    Commentary

    Time to Bury Plans for Counterterrorism Cooperation with Russia in Syria

    As two botched airstrikes this week indicate, U.S. counterterrorism cooperation with Russia is just too risky and probably wasn't feasible in the first place. There is too little faith between the two countries for meaningful cooperation in this area.

    Sep 23, 2016

  • A man arrives at the World Trade Center complex on the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in New York City, September 11, 2016

    Testimony

    Fifteen Years After 9/11: A Preliminary Balance Sheet

    Fifteen years after 9/11, the United States is better organized and equipped to combat terrorism. But the country still faces a multi-tiered threat, and its citizens remain fearful.

    Sep 21, 2016

  • News Release

    Al Shabaab Weakened but Not Defeated in Somalia

    Efforts to weaken the al Qa'ida-linked terrorist group al Shabaab in Somalia have had some success, but the U.S. campaign there is in jeopardy. Urgent steps are needed to address the political, economic, and governance challenges at the heart of the conflict.

    Sep 13, 2016

  • New recruits belonging to Somalia's al-Qaeda-linked al Shabaab group march during a parade at a military training base in Afgoye, Somalia, February 17, 2011

    Report

    Al Shabaab Is Weakened but Not Defeated in Somalia

    Efforts to weaken the al Qa'ida-linked terrorist group al Shabaab in Somalia have had some success, but the U.S. campaign there is in jeopardy. Urgent steps are needed to address the political, economic, and governance challenges at the heart of the conflict.

    Sep 13, 2016

  • New York City Police Officer Danny Shea salutes at the National September 11 Memorial in New York, September 11, 2011

    Commentary

    September 11: The Day That Changed My Country (and My Career Path) Forever

    New York City native Colin Clarke discusses how terrorism has evolved since the September 11 attacks and how the tragedy motivated him to become a terrorism expert.

    Sep 11, 2016

  • News Release

    U.S. Rules for Targeted Killing Using Drones Need Clarifying

    Current U.S. policies on using drones for targeted killing are characterized by ambiguities in interpretations of international law and too many generalities, despite recent efforts by the Obama administration to clarify the policies.

    Sep 8, 2016

  • A U.S. Air Force remotely piloted aircraft

    Report

    Clarifying the Rules for Using Drones in Targeted Killing

    U.S. international legal policies involving the use of drones in targeted killing need more clarity, specificity, and consistency. Policymakers must define an approach that protects civilians and human rights, while allowing latitude to fight terrorism.

    Sep 8, 2016

  • The 'Tribute in Lights' shines on the skyline of lower Manhattan in New York City, September 11, 2006

    Commentary

    Fifteen Years After 9/11, What Is the State of the 'War on Terror'?

    Much has changed since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Counterterrorism efforts have made progress, and Americans are safer. But it's unclear how much further the fight against terrorism has to go.

    Sep 7, 2016

  • Periodical

    RAND Review: September-October 2016

    This issue highlights transgender personnel in the U.S. military; promising evidence on personalized learning in U.S. classrooms; a Q&A on gaming and public policy; excerpts from John Lewis' Pardee RAND commencement address, and more.

    Aug 29, 2016

  • Syria Democratic Forces fighters inspect a center used by Islamic State religious police in Manbij, Aleppo Governorate, Syria, August 16, 2016

    Commentary

    Demystifying the Islamic State

    To counter the threat posed by the Islamic State group, it is crucial to understand what the terrorist organization is and what it is not. Attributing all jihadist violence to a ruthless gang headquartered in Raqqa exaggerates the power of the group and plays into their propaganda and recruiting efforts.

    Aug 23, 2016

  • Sami Dayan (center), an al Qaeda militant, is escorted by police in a courtroom holding cell in Sanaa, Yemen, April 22, 2014

    Commentary

    A Persistent and Resilient Adversary: Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula

    The history of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula catalogues every dimension of frustration in combatting terrorism. But is it possible that the United States and its Gulf allies are finally getting the measure of AQAP?

    Aug 22, 2016

  • U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the FY2016 budget at the Department of Homeland Security in Washington, February 2, 2015

    Commentary

    President Obama's Controversial Legacy as Counterterrorism-in-Chief

    There were no attacks like 9/11 during Obama's eight years in office. But there were plenty of terrorist adversaries. While he will be judged in part for his domestic achievements, Obama's counterterrorism choices are a major part of his legacy.

    Aug 22, 2016

  • A New York City fireman calls for 10 more rescue workers to make their way into the rubble of the World Trade Center on September 15, 2001

    Commentary

    ISIS vs. Al Qaida: Battle of the Terrorist Brands

    Rather than thinking of defeating terrorists solely in traditional military terms, it might make sense to think of bankrupting them. It might help to consider the factors that cause luxury brands to lose their luster or big box retailers to fail.

    Aug 16, 2016

  • French President Francois Hollande and Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian review troops at the fort of Vincennes, France, July 25, 2016

    Commentary

    Emergencies: France, Mali, and Turkey Are Playing with Fire

    The leaders of France, Mali, and Turkey have declared formal states of emergency. France's Hollande and Mali's Keïta, while responding to real threats, are risking democracy. Erdogan appears to be targeting democracy and using Turkey's recent failed coup as a pretext.

    Aug 15, 2016

  • Al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front fighters enter the back of a pick-up truck in Arsal, Lebanon, December 1, 2015

    Commentary

    What's in a Name? The Rebranding of the Nusra Front

    Jabhat al-Nusra, which recently announced that it was severing its affiliation with al Qaeda, is now Jabhat Fateh al-Sham. This means less than meets the eye, but it does say something about the local atmosphere in Syria.

    Aug 8, 2016

  • U.S. Capitol Building, Washington, D.C.

    Blog

    A Summer Reading List for Congress

    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.

    Aug 2, 2016

  • Report

    Authorities for Military Operations Against Terrorist Groups: The State of the Debate and Options for Congress

    U.S. counterterrorism operations rely on authorizations from 2001 and 2002. This report surveys the debate over requirements for a new authorization, the terrorist challenge, purposes and key elements of such legislation, and congressional options.

    Jul 22, 2016

  • Staff Sgt. Todd Reinert, a motor transportation operations chief, guides soldiers through shooting drills prior to a live-fire range in Tiguet, Mauritania, Feb. 15, 2016.

    Commentary

    This Is the Problem with Trying to Destroy the Islamic State

    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.

    Jul 12, 2016

  • U.S. President Barack Obama meets with reporters at the NATO Summit in Warsaw, Poland, July 8, 2016

    Commentary

    Obama Must Take a Strong Lead at the NATO Summit

    To overcome differences within NATO and move forward in these troubled times, Obama should go beyond his usual low-key approach, while still working closely with allied leaders.

    Jul 8, 2016

  • Iraqi counterterrorism forces in Falluja after they recaptured the city from the Islamic State in June 2016

    Commentary

    To Defeat ISIL's Brand, Its Territory Must Be Reclaimed

    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.

    Jul 8, 2016