Terrorism Threat Assessment


In light of the global increase in the number and lethality of terrorist attacks, it has become imperative that nations, states, and private citizens become more involved in a strategic vision to recognize, prepare for, and — if possible — prevent such events. RAND research and analysis has provided policymakers with objective guidance and recommendations to improve preparedness, international collaboration, response, and recovery to this global threat.

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    Increase in Jihadist Threat Calls for New U.S. Strategy to Combat Terrorism

    Jun 4, 2014

    Since 2010, there has been a 58 percent increase in the number of jihadist groups, a doubling of fighters, and a tripling of attacks by al Qaeda affiliates. The U.S. cannot afford to withdraw or remain disengaged from key parts of North Africa, the Middle East, or South Asia.

  • Protesters carry Al-Qaeda flags during an anti-government protest in the town of Marat Numan in Idlib province, Syria, March 11, 2016, photo by Khalil Ashawi/Reuters


    Could ISIS and Al Qaeda, Two Giants of Jihad, Unite?

    Mar 14, 2016

    It could take a change in leadership in both Al Qaeda and ISIS and perhaps some compromises on mission and strategy, but there are enough points of confluence to make a united jihadist front a realistic and frightening possibility.

Explore Terrorism Threat Assessment

  • A tank is seen as fighters from Libyan forces allied with the U.N.-backed government take position during a battle with Islamic State militants in Sirte, Libya, September 22, 2016


    Keep Chemical Weapons Out of Terrorist Hands

    As the Islamic State group and the Nusra Front seized territory in Syria and northern Iraq, they came upon military sites with chemical munitions and industrial facilities with toxic chemicals. Reducing such opportunities should be a priority.

    Sep 27, 2016

  • Members of the New York Police Department Counter Terrorism division use a device to test for radiation during a multi-agency 'dirty bomb' exercise led by the NYPD in Brooklyn, New York, April 9, 2011


    U.S. More Able Than Ever to Combat Terrorism

    Acts of pure terrorism are truly arbitrary and extremely difficult to protect against, but they are rare. Improved domestic counterterrorist efforts have uncovered and interrupted close to 90 percent of jihadist terrorist plots in the United States since 9/11.

    Sep 26, 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


    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

  • Danish police search an apartment block in Ishoej, Denmark, for people suspected of having been recruited by the Islamic State, April 7, 2016


    Striking Back at the Islamic State's Foreign Fighter Pipeline

    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.

    May 31, 2016

  • A police line separates people attending the Freedom of Speech Rally Round II from counter demonstrators outside the Islamic Community Center in Phoenix, Arizona, May 29, 2015


    Anti-Muslim Demonstrations Don't Make Us Safer

    Anti-Muslim demonstrations complicate efforts to combat terrorism. They also exaggerate the threat, perpetuate overblown fears, and punish innocents who may be on America's side.

    May 12, 2016

  • Transportation soldiers and civilian harbormasters move cargo containers onto awaiting vessels in a training exercise at Joint Base Langley-Eustis


    Ten Years After the Safe Port Act, Are America's Ports Secure?

    The economic importance and visibility of America's ports make them attractive terrorism targets. Port security has improved, but many of the threats that motivated the Safe Ports Act in 2006 remain, and new dangers have emerged, including cyber threats.

    Apr 6, 2016

  • U.S. sailors assigned to Navy Cyber Defense Operations Command monitor, analyze, detect, and respond to unauthorized activity within U.S. Navy information systems and networks


    The Online Fight Against ISIS

    To prevail against ISIS in cyberspace, the United States and its cyber soldiers will have to be capable of reacting quickly, while being guided by an overarching strategy. Secretary of Defense Carter urged U.S. Cyber Command to intensify the fight against ISIS but it would also be wise to recruit civilian volunteers.

    Apr 1, 2016

  • Tourists leave from the Enfidha international airport in Sousse, Tunisia, June 27, 2015, after being evacuated following a terrorist attack on the beach


    Is Terrorism More Likely After a Major Attack?

    An examination of the historical record of terrorism in the United States and Europe between 1970 and the end of 2013 finds an absence of clustering for terrorist events around trigger events since 1994, no increases in terrorism on significant dates, and a decline of terrorism in the West since the 1970s.

    Mar 31, 2016

  • A Tunisian soldier holds his position during an exercise along the frontier with Libya in Sabkeht Alyun, Tunisia February 6, 2016


    Tunisia's Role in Fight Against Terrorism Discussed at RAND Conference

    The fight against terrorism in Tunisia is a shared priority and responsibility with the U.S. and Europe but will also depend greatly on solving the security issues in neighboring Libya, according to participants at a March 23 conference at RAND.

    Mar 30, 2016

  • Police at the scene of a security operation in the Brussels suburb of Molenbeek in Belgium, March 18, 2016


    Europe's Terror Fight Far from Over

    Salah Abdeslam is suspected of being the logistics man for the November terrorist attacks in Paris. His capture may provide authorities with a window into the ISIS network in Europe.

    Mar 22, 2016

  • Events @ RAND Audio Podcast


    Syrian Refugees: Humanitarian and Security Perspectives

    The U.S. and other Western countries have vowed to admit more Syrian refugees, but terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, Paris, Cologne, and Jakarta are fueling community anxieties. In this RAND Policy Circle briefing, experts address what countries are doing to help abate the humanitarian crisis and ongoing efforts to counter the terrorist threat.

    Feb 24, 2016

  • Congressional Briefing Podcast


    Lessening the Risk of Refugee Radicalization

    In this February 2016 congressional briefing, senior political scientist Barbara H. Sude discusses historical examples of radicalization among refugee groups, factors that can increase the risk of radicalization, measures to reduce the risk, and considerations for policymakers and legislators.

    Feb 16, 2016

  • Libya Dawn fighters watch Islamic State militant positions near Sirte March 19, 2015


    The Three Challenges of Countering ISIS in Libya

    ISIS's expansion in Libya is a threat to the security of Libyans, to the region, and to Europe. U.S. and European cooperation to counter ISIS is essential and Libya is unlikely to ever be peaceful without outside military support.

    Feb 5, 2016

  • An operations intelligence analyst


    Assessing Threats with Soft, Uncertain, and Conflicting Evidence

    Part of thwarting terrorist attacks is observing suspicious individuals over time with diverse means. These observations provide data that are often both complex and “soft.” How can analysts combine these data to form a realistic threat assessment?

    Feb 1, 2016

  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivers a statement that sanctions will be lifted on Iran after the IAEA verified that Iran has met all conditions under the nuclear deal, January 16, 2016


    Iran, Terrorism, and Nonproliferation After the Nuclear Deal

    As Iran re-enters global markets, the Obama administration needs a strategy that accounts for the nuclear deal's potentially adverse implications for U.S. counterterrorism policy as well as its advantages for nonproliferation policy.

    Jan 28, 2016

  • A demonstration on infectious disease identification and treatment from the Benin Armed Force in Contonou, Benin, January 2013


    Countering Bioterror

    While advances in biotechnology have brought a wide range of benefits, biological weapons are now within the reach of many rogue nations and possibly some terrorist groups. Reports show that the U.S. is ill prepared to address this threat.

    Jan 18, 2016

  • U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter stands with Col. Otto Liller as he is greeted by Iraqi Major General Falah al Mohamedawi (L) at the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service Academy in Baghdad, July 23, 2015


    Solving the Geometrical Problem of Terrorism

    Think of terror organizations as being composed of four elements, organized in concentric circles with the leaders at the center bull's eye, operational elements in the second ring, supporters in the third, and sympathizers in the fourth. Neutralizing each group will require different strategies.

    Jan 13, 2016

  • A Kurdish refugee woman from Syria walks with her children at a refugee camp in Suruc, Turkey, November 17, 2014


    Lessening the Risk of Refugee Radicalization: Lessons from the Past

    Radicalization among refugee populations, such as the millions currently fleeing Syria, is not inevitable. Rather, comprehensive policies that go beyond immediate life-saving needs can mitigate the risk. But such policies were rare in past crises and even today can be difficult to put in place and sustain.

    Dec 28, 2015

  • A no-school sign is pictured at Florence Nightingale Middle School in the Cypress Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, December 15, 2015


    How Terrorist Threats Against LA and New York Schools Exposed Weaknesses

    The handling of terrorist threats on Los Angeles and New York City schools calls into question the ability of national and local government to coordinate a terrorist crisis involving two or more cities.

    Dec 23, 2015