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

  • 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 25, 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

  • Employees at Atatürk Airport attend a ceremony for their coworkers who were killed in an attack at the airport, Istanbul, Turkey, June 30, 2016

    Commentary

    The Response to Every Terrorist Attack Cannot Be Another Checkpoint

    The Istanbul attack will renew calls to extend 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.

    Jul 1, 2016

  • ISmoke billows from a building after a Taliban attack in Gereshk district of Helmand province, Afghanistan, March 9, 2016

    Blog

    Strategic Reversal in Afghanistan

    A new contingency plan considers what an unraveling of Afghanistan's political and security situation over the next 18 months would mean — and what can be done to prevent it.

    Jun 24, 2016

  • Soldiers from a force aligned with Libya's new unity government walk along a road during an advance on the eastern and southern outskirts of the Islamic State stronghold of Sirte, June 9, 2016

    Commentary

    All Eyes on Sirte: Beating the Islamic State, but Losing Libya

    At a time when the U.N.-sponsored Government of National Accord could be working to unite Libya's armed groups and promote political stability, it has instead become entwined in the race for Sirte.

    Jun 23, 2016

  • An Afghan National Army soldier keeps watch at a check post in Logar province, Afghanistan, February 16, 2016

    Commentary

    Afghanistan After Mansour

    The death of Taliban leader Akhtar Mohammad Mansour is unlikely to transform the conflict in Afghanistan or improve the prospects for a deal between Kabul and the Taliban. In the coming months, the U.S. presence in the country will be as important as ever.

    Jun 17, 2016

  • People take part in a candlelight memorial service the day after a mass shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, June 13, 2016

    Blog

    Orlando Nightclub Shooting: RAND Experts React

    RAND experts provide perspective on the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, what it likely means within the context of the campaign against ISIS, and more.

    Jun 15, 2016

  • Hands on a keyboard in a dark room

    Commentary

    Cyberterrorism and the Role of Silicon Valley

    As national security and war are being redefined for the digital age, Silicon Valley will need to be on the front line of counterterrorism. Its inventors and entrepreneurs are driving the information revolution, and they must figure out how to protect vital systems against malevolent intrusions.

    Jun 13, 2016

  • Boys study with a shared book at their school in a village outside Sanaa, Yemen, February 2, 2016

    Commentary

    Countering Extremism: Early Childhood Education Forgotten

    Global attention has turned to education as a way to counter extremism. But what has been missing from the conversation is a focus on learning in children's first years, when much brain development occurs. In the Middle East and North Africa, government underinvestment in formal programs for young children is the norm.

    Jun 8, 2016

  • A pro-Russian rebel sends messages over his smartphone in the eastern Ukrainian town of Slaviansk, May 16, 2014

    Report

    How Commercial Tech Can Affect Military Intelligence Operations

    Commercial technologies such as smartphones are primarily about identifying and tracking people and patterns of behavior. Their presence is greatest in urban environments. This happens to be where most military intelligence operations are conducted and where most future insurgencies and wars are likely to take place.

    Jun 6, 2016