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.

  • Iraqi soldiers fire a rocket toward Islamic State militants on the outskirts of the Makhmour south of Mosul, Iraq, March 25, 2016, photo by Azad Lashkari/Reuters

    Content

    How to Roll Back ISIL and Other Terrorist Threats

    Sep 30, 2016

    ISIL is the most active group among Salafi-jihadists, waging a wide campaign. Defeating the group will require moving it from a quasi-state to an insurgency to a suppressed movement that controls little or no territory or population.

Explore Terrorist Organizations

  • A member of the counterterrorism task force stands guard in Times Square, New York City, December 31, 2016

    Testimony

    No Easy Solutions to the Persistent Terrorist Threat

    Jihadist terrorism isn't the most dangerous threat to the United States. But it is the most prominent. There are no clear solutions to this problem, and all America's counterterrorism options entail risks.

    Feb 14, 2017

  • Displaced people who fled ISIS arrive at a military checkpoint before being transported to camps in eastern Mosul, Iraq, January 25, 2017

    Commentary

    Stabilizing Mosul After the Battle Against ISIS

    U.S.-backed Iraqi forces have retaken the east bank of Mosul and are planning to take the west soon. The military operations that oust ISIS are crucial to the city's liberation but failing to get the civilian response right risks a widening civil war.

    Feb 9, 2017

  • Somali government soldiers secure the scene of an explosion in front of Dayah hotel in Somalia's capital Mogadishu, January 25, 2017

    Commentary

    U.S. Counterterrorism Strategy Must Be About More Than ISIS

    ISIS is a worthy candidate for eradication, but failing to also target its franchises, al-Qaida splinters, and other non-aligned groups in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia could allow other threats to metastasize.

    Feb 9, 2017

  • Iraqi army gather during a fight with Islamic State militants in Rashidiya, North of Mosul, Iraq, January 30, 2017.

    Commentary

    The Need for a Targeted Counter-ISIL Strategy

    Defeating ISIL is only possible if political conditions change in the Middle East, North and West Africa, and South Asia, and in ways that are exceedingly unlikely. The coalition should focus on reducing ISIL's ability to conduct attacks and on removing the underlying conditions that feed Sunni grievances.

    Feb 5, 2017

  • U.S. soldiers execute a fire mission to support Iraqi security forces during the Mosul counteroffensive in northern Iraq, December 24, 2016

    Report

    Countering ISIL as a Transregional Threat

    The U.S. counter-ISIL strategy must recognize the long-term nature of the global violent jihadi threat. U.S. diplomatic and military actions should focus on reducing the appeal of ISIL and disrupting the transregional network that supports it.

    Jan 31, 2017

  • A family walks next to an Iraqi tank during a fight with ISIS militants in Rashidiya, north of Mosul, Iraq, January 30, 2017

    Commentary

    Is ISIS Breaking Apart?

    The coalition tasked with countering ISIS has made progress, and ISIS is sure to break apart further over the next few years. Any splinter groups that result could differ from their parent organization, so counterterrorism strategies will need to adjust.

    Jan 31, 2017

  • Hezbollah members salute during the funeral of Ali Fayyad, a senior commander who was killed fighting in Syria, Lebanon, March 2, 2016

    Commentary

    Hezbollah Is Winning the War in Syria

    Hezbollah's participation in operations in Syria have likely helped improve the group's interoperability with other military organizations, hone its tactics, and expand its ability to command and control forces in a combat environment—all of which can be exported back to its native Lebanon.

    Jan 30, 2017

  • Report

    Troubled waters: a snapshot of security challenges in the Mediterranean region

    This publication is part of a series of four RAND Perspectives (PE) each focusing on different challenges in the Mediterranean region. The focus of this PE is on defence and security issues and their implications for regional stability.

    Jan 25, 2017

  • Periodical

    RAND Review: January-February 2017

    This issue highlights ways that RAND researchers on the ground in Uganda are having a measurable impact on the lives of men and women struggling with HIV and depression. The issue also features a tribute to the late economist Charles Wolf Jr.

    Jan 12, 2017

  • Testimony

    Fifteen Years After 9/11: A Preliminary Balance Sheet: Addendum

    Document submitted on January 11, 2017 as an addendum to testimony presented before the House Armed Services Committee on September 21, 2016.

    Jan 12, 2017

  • French soldiers from Operation Barkhane stand outside their armored personnel carrier during a sandstorm in Inat, Mali, May 26, 2016

    Commentary

    Mali's Persistent Jihadist Problem

    The 2013 French intervention in Mali averted an al Qaeda-backed thrust toward the capital of Bamako and reduced the threat from other jihadist groups. To ensure that a new threat does not materialize, France will need staying power and support from its allies.

    Jan 12, 2017

  • Silhouettes of people on a Syrian national flag are seen at a peace march in Damascus, September 21, 2016

    Report

    How to Prevent State Collapse in Syria

    Syria will likely be a weak state in a volatile region when its civil war ends. How can U.S. policy create conditions for a transition that helps fight terrorism and preserve state institutions?

    Jan 9, 2017

  • A sailor opens a network monitoring program during an exercise at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California, August 22, 2016

    Commentary

    America's Cyber Security Dilemma — and a Way Out

    The United States should continue to pursue international cooperation in cyberspace, improve its ability to identify and expose the sources of attacks, and improve its oversight of the development and adoption of cyber-related technologies.

    Dec 22, 2016

  • French police secure a street near a travel agency where a gunman took seven people hostage in a robbery, in Paris, France, December 2, 2016

    Commentary

    Crime and Terror in Europe: Where the Nexus Is Alive and Well

    The idea of a crime-terror nexus does appear to be a major threat in Europe, where terrorists and criminals now recruit from the same milieu. Coperation between European law enforcement and intelligence agencies is critical.

    Dec 15, 2016

  • Afghan National Army soldiers inspect passengers at a checkpoint in eastern Afghanistan, June 29, 2015, after Islamic State fighters had seized territory from rival Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan for the first time

    Commentary

    The Islamic State-Taliban Rivalry in Afghanistan

    The weakening of the Islamic State is a positive step. But Taliban successes against the group have strengthened the Taliban's power, bolstered its reputation, and complicated U.S. and Afghan government efforts to wind down the Afghan war.

    Nov 28, 2016

  • A boy holds up a white flag in Mosul, Iraq, November 16, 2016

    Commentary

    What ISIS Leaves Behind in Mosul Will Reveal a Lot

    The capture of Mosul, Iraq, may produce a potential trove of information about how ISIS organized itself to run a large city. Collecting, analyzing, and disseminating this material will be a major effort, one of the most important as the city is liberated.

    Nov 18, 2016

  • A Peshmerga soldier talks with a boy who is fleeing the fighting between Islamic State and the Iraqi army in Mosul, Iraq, November 14, 2016

    Commentary

    What the Battles of Mosul and Aleppo Tell Us About Their Countries' Futures

    The battle of Mosul is not just about defeating ISIS. It is about restoring Mosul to the multi-ethnic city it once was. The Syrian government's style of warfare in Aleppo, however, accepts that Syria will remain a divided country.

    Nov 14, 2016

  • Smoke rises during clashes in the town of Bashiqa, east of Mosul, during an operation to attack Islamic State militants in Mosul, Iraq, November 8, 2016

    Commentary

    How Will Jihadist Strategy Evolve As the Islamic State Declines?

    As ISIL experiences ongoing battlefield losses it will have to rework its strategy to sustain itself as a preeminent jihadist brand. Meanwhile, the group will likely place greater emphasis on smaller scale strikes that require less central direction.

    Nov 10, 2016

  • A member of the Nusra Front squats in Ariha, Syria, after a coalition of insurgent groups seized the area, May 29, 2015

    Commentary

    Al Nusra Is Stronger Than Ever

    While the West targets ISIS, Jabhat Fateh al Sham, formerly known as Jabhat al Nusra, is quietly laying the groundwork for al Qaeda's resurgence.

    Nov 2, 2016

  • News Release

    New Book Provides a Timely Guide to Understanding Insurgency Warfare

    A new book from terrorist expert Seth G. Jones explores the history and details of 181 insurgencies since the end of World War II, providing lessons for those fighting insurgent campaigns today in such countries as Syria, Libya, and Iraq.

    Nov 1, 2016