Asymmetric Warfare

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The 9/11 terrorist attacks and the war in Afghanistan are among the best-known recent examples of asymmetric warfare: conflicts between nations or groups that have disparate military capabilities and strategies. RAND investigates political and military responses to—and the impacts of—counterinsurgency, terrorism, and other forms of irregular warfare.

  • Commentary

    Winning the Irregular World War

    If the United States hopes to prevail in an asymmetrical world war, it must upgrade its abilities to provide self-defense and resistance support to its allies and partners, and better coordinate its disparate efforts to counter Russia and China across departments and agencies.

    Nov 6, 2023

  • Commentary

    The Trouble with a Cease-Fire

    Given that Hamas promised to repeat the October 7 attack until Israel's annihilation, it is no wonder that Israelis nearly uniformly want, as one Israeli politician put it, to finish the job this time around. To Israelis, the international calls for a cease-fire ring hollow.

    Dec 26, 2023

Explore Asymmetric Warfare

  • Egyptian convoy at the Rafah border between Gaza and Egypt

    Blog

    Gaza: Hard Fighting Looms Without a Broader Peace Strategy

    The United States and Israel should capitalize on Egypt's active role in mediating a cease-fire and thus revisit initiatives like the Arab Peace Initiative, which in the new regional strategic environment may be the best hope of reviving the moribund peace process before it is too late.

    Nov 20, 2012

  • a U.S. Army Soldier and Afghan National Policemen

    Commentary

    Difficult Questions on Afghanistan and Pakistan

    In Afghanistan, the U.S. military has been fighting the longest war in the nation's history—and many Americans don't understand why. The final presidential debate on Monday affords President Obama and Governor Romney an excellent opportunity to provide answers, writes Jonah Blank.

    Oct 17, 2012

  • khost,air-assault,Operation Champion Sword,Afghanistan

    Research Brief

    The Value and Limitations of Minimalist Stabilization Efforts

    Minimalist stabilizations — small-scale interventions designed to stabilize a partner government engaged in violent conflict — have both utility and limitations. This report proposes policy recommendations to improve the outcomes of such operations.

    Oct 1, 2012

  • Philippines,SMEE,MARSOC,Marine,JSOTF-P,Basilan,Navy,Unclassified

    Report

    The Uses and Limits of Small-Scale Military Interventions

    Minimalist stabilizations — small-scale interventions designed to stabilize a partner government engaged in violent conflict — have both utility and limitations. This report proposes policy recommendations to improve the outcomes of such operations.

    Sep 27, 2012

  • Report

    Report

    Historical Lessons for Creating Local Defense Forces for Afghanistan and Beyond

    Lessons learned from past cases of local defense forces used in the context of counterinsurgency—in Indochina, Algeria, South Vietnam, Oman, El Salvador, Southern Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Iraq—can be applied to the current development of the Afghan Local Police.

    Sep 18, 2012

  • Syrian civilians flee from fighting after Syrian army tanks entered the northwestern city of Idlib

    Commentary

    Syrian Scenarios

    The most likely outcome, in my opinion, may be no outcome at all, but instead a civil war lasting years. The conflict has become an existential struggle for its participants—their survival is at stake, writes Brian Michael Jenkins.

    Aug 8, 2012

  • Testimony

    Testimony

    The Case for Expanding Assistance to the Syrian Opposition

    The U.S. and its European allies have a strong interest in Assad's fall, largely due to that regime's alignment with Iran. Syria provides the main bridge by which Iran is able to support Hezbollah and Hamas, influence Lebanon, outflank its Sunni Gulf adversaries and threaten Israel.

    Aug 1, 2012

  • A wargames board game

    Commentary

    Anatomy of a War Game

    War games are especially important as countries prepare to counter adversaries who use asymmetric strategies or weapons, forcing military planners to deal with unfamiliar threats, writes Bruce Bennett.

    Jun 12, 2012

  • Commercial Book

    Commercial Book

    Hunting in the Shadows: The Pursuit of Al Qa'ida Since 9/11

    A comprehensive, landmark history and insider's account chronicles the ongoing battle against al Qa'ida, the greatest threat the West has faced in the modern era.

    Apr 9, 2012

  • U.S. Army Major greets a local resident at Jani Kheyl, Afghanistan

    Commentary

    Should the U.S. Leave Afghanistan Now? History Favors More Time

    The Afghans will have better prospects for defeating their insurgency with continued improvement, of course, and the United States can contribute to that improvement while American forces remain, writes Christopher Paul.

    Apr 3, 2012

  • Testimony

    Testimony

    How Should the United States Manage Future Irregular Warfare Challenges?

    Based on America's recent experience in irregular warfare and future threats, there are several issues that should be considered: organization, the health of U.S. soldiers and their families, training and education, and inter-agency cooperation.

    Mar 27, 2012

  • News Release

    News Release

    Israeli Mistakes Against Hybrid Adversaries Serve as Cautionary Tale for U.S. Military

    A review of recent Israeli military conflicts indicates the United States may be ill-prepared for "hybrid" warfare against state-sponsored adversaries who have a modicum of training and small force numbers, but possess advanced weapons and enough expertise to challenge the U.S. military.

    Jan 19, 2012

  • Report

    Report

    Israeli Mistakes Against Hybrid Adversaries Serve as Cautionary Tale for U.S. Military

    A review of recent Israeli military conflicts indicates the United States may be ill-prepared for

    Jan 19, 2012

  • USARAF commander meets with Mauritanian senior leaders

    Research Brief

    Addressing Commanders' Needs for Information on

    A framework for thinking about commanders' critical information needs in countersurgency operations, offering practical ways for commanders to integrate influence activities into combined arms planning and assessment.

    Dec 5, 2011

  • Report

    Report

    Heavy Armor in the Future Security Environment

    Through an examination of adversary capabilities in recent conflicts, the author explores whether heavy brigade combat teams are justified as a prominent component of the future U.S. Army.

    Nov 8, 2011

  • Report

    Report

    From Insurgency to Stability: Volume I: Key Capabilities and Practices

    This book identifies the procedures and capabilities that the U.S. Department of Defense, other agencies of the U.S.government, and its allies and partners require to support the transition from counterinsurgency to conditions of greater stability.

    Sep 7, 2011

  • News Release

    News Release

    RAND Book Provides Critical Review of U.S. Actions Since 9/11; Recommends Future Anti-Terror Path

    A new collection of essays by experts from the RAND Corporation examines America in the decade since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, focusing a critical eye on the nation's actions since the attacks and outlining changes in strategy needed to improve efforts against jihadist groups.

    Jul 26, 2011

  • Report

    RAND Book Provides Critical Review of U.S. Actions Since 9/11; Recommends Future Anti-Terror Path

    A new collection of essays by experts from the RAND Corporation examines America in the decade since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, focusing a critical eye on the nation's actions since the attacks and outlining changes in strategy needed to improve efforts against jihadist groups.

    Jul 26, 2011

  • Report

    Report

    How Does the Conflict in Afghanistan Compare to Counterinsurgencies of the Past 30 Years?

    An analysis of 30 insurgencies worldwide between 1978 and 2008 determined what factors were ultimately correlated with success or defeat. Comparing Afghanistan in early 2011 against this scorecard results in an uncertain outcome for the conflict there, but the findings may help provide additional guidance as operations continue.

    Jun 27, 2011

  • U.S. soldiers on COIN operation in Iraq

    Report

    Victory Has a Thousand Fathers: Sources of Success in Counterinsurgency

    Approaches to counterinsurgency from 30 recent resolved campaigns show that good counterinsurgency practices tend to

    Jun 18, 2010