Terrorist Cells

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Terrorist organizations have long threatened the security, infrastructure, and citizens of nations and communities throughout the world. Since the early 1970s, RAND has explored the structure and activities of terrorist organizations—most recently al Qaeda and its offshoots—to understand their motivations, their recruitment and training methods, and why some are more successful than others.

  • 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, photo by JO1 Preston Keres/U.S. Navy

    Commentary

    ISIS vs. Al Qaida: Battle of the Terrorist Brands

    Aug 16, 2016

    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.

  • The ISIS hashtag is seen typed into a Twitter smartphone app, February 6, 2016, photo by Dado Ruvic/Reuters

    Report

    Examining ISIS Support and Opposition on Twitter

    Aug 16, 2016

    ISIS uses Twitter to inspire followers, recruit fighters, and spread its message, while opponents use Twitter to denounce it. An analysis of the communities opposed to ISIS suggests inroads for influence that the U.S. government's social media strategy should explore to weaken ISIS propaganda and recruitment.

Explore Terrorist Organizations

  • 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

  • News Release

    U.S. Social Media Strategy Can Weaken ISIS Influence on Twitter

    On Twitter, there are six times more ISIS opponents than supporters, but those who support ISIS are more active. U.S. officials could help ISIS opponents enhance the effectiveness and reach of their messaging by offering social media training.

    Aug 16, 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

  • Smoke rises after airstrikes from the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State militants in a village east of Mosul, Iraq, May 29, 2016

    Commentary

    Cutting the Islamic State's Money Supply

    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.

    Jul 21, 2016

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a cabinet meeting in Golan Heights, near the ceasefire line between Israel and Syria, April 17, 2016

    Report

    What Are Israel's Interests and Options in Syria?

    Israel has few good options for intervening in the Syrian conflict. Why? Because there is no likely outcome that would be more favorable to Israel than Syria's violent status quo.

    Jul 18, 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

  • Students hold a placard and candles during a vigil after a terror attack on Dhaka, Bangladesh, in Agartala, India, July 3, 2016

    Commentary

    Is the Surge in Terrorist Attacks Coincidence or Coordinated Campaign?

    Whatever the investigations of recent terrorist attacks reveal, the facts may be portrayed (or ignored) to fit narratives written even before the blood has dried.

    Jul 11, 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • Brazilian Army soldiers take part in a simulation of decontamination of multiple victims during a training against chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear attacks ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympics, March 11, 2016

    Commentary

    ISIS and Dirty Bombs

    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.

    Jun 3, 2016

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

    Commentary

    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 member of the Peshmerga forces inspects a tunnel used by Islamic State militants in the town of Sinjar, Iraq

    Commentary

    Islamic State May Be Down, but It's Far from Out

    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.

    May 23, 2016