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.

  • Iraqi forces advance against Islamic State militants in western Mosul, Iraq, March 6, 2017, photo by Suhaib Salem/Reuters

    Report

    Rolling Back the Islamic State

    Apr 20, 2017

    The Islamic State has lost substantial control of territory and people. But the group still conducts and inspires attacks around the world. The United States should pursue a light rollback strategy that relies on local forces backed by U.S. special operations troops, intelligence assets, and airpower.

  • Members of the Free Syrian Army distribute humanitarian aid to residents left in Harem town, Idlib Governorate, October 28, 2012, after Syrian jets bombarded Sunni Muslim regions across the country, photo by Asmaa Waguih/Reuters

    Report

    The U.S. Strategy to Defeat the Islamic State Needs an Overhaul

    May 8, 2017

    A broader strategy to beat the Islamic State should address the conditions that allowed the group to emerge and thrive. A long-term commitment is required to establish legitimate governance in Iraq and Syria and reconcile the disenfranchised Sunni Arab populations with their governments.

Explore Counterterrorism

  • Shi'ite Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) members hold an Islamic State flag, which they pulled down, during the war between Iraqi army and PMF against Islamic State militants in Tal Afar, Iraq, August 27, 2017

    Commentary

    Expanding the ISIS Brand

    Since its founding, the Islamic State has consistently expanded and contracted in order to achieve its objectives. To discern how ISIS might continue to expand, it makes sense to trace Al Qaeda's trajectory, which followed a similar pattern in the 2000s.

    Feb 19, 2018

  • Flowers and pictures of victims of the Islamic State's assault on Istanbul's Reina nightclub are placed near its entrance in Istanbul, Turkey, January 17, 2017

    Commentary

    Erdogan's Fatal Blind Spot

    Countering the growing terrorist threat appears to be low on Erdogan's agenda. Turkey has been accused of recruiting thousands of former Islamic State fighters to attack Kurds in Syria. Tolerating the Islamic State in order to fight the Kurds is a dangerous and myopic policy.

    Feb 16, 2018

  • Russian trucks seen on the road heading to Deir al-Zor in Kabakeb near Deir al-Zor, Syria September 21, 2017

    Commentary

    Russia Is Not a Viable Counterterrorism Partner for the United States

    Russia is America's adversary and its actions, particularly attempts to fracture NATO, do not align with larger U.S. security goals. Even where there are areas in which the two countries could work together to mutual benefit, any cooperation should be judicious, measured and treated with the requisite degree of skepticism.

    Feb 9, 2018

  • Shiny gold Bitcoin coin with gun on black background

    Commentary

    Bitcoin and the Dark Web: The New Terrorist Threat?

    Bitcoin has become the prominent currency of the dark web, which is often used to buy illegal goods, such as weapons and drugs. Anecdotal evidence suggests terrorists are using cryptocurrency and the dark web, but further investigation is needed.

    Jan 22, 2018

  • Multimedia

    Countering Violent Extremism

    A series of brief videos introduces important elements of the RAND Program Evaluation Toolkit for Countering Violent Extremism (CVE). The toolkit helps community-based CVE programs design an evaluation that is appropriate for their program type, resources, and expertise.

    Jan 10, 2018

  • Mosul in March 2016, under Islamic State control, when nighttime lighting had fallen by 55 percent compared to its pre-ISIS levels in January 2014

    Essay

    What Life Under ISIS Looked Like from Space

    Satellite images show how ISIS attempted to govern in Iraq and Syria, the economic damage the group left behind, and what it will take to rebuild.

    Jan 9, 2018

  • French soldiers of the 13th engineering regiment inspect the perimeter of a touareg home near Tin Hama, Mali, October 20, 2017

    Commentary

    Meet France's War Philosophers

    Gen. Vincent Desportes and Col. Michel Goya draw on careers focused on the study and practice of war and share a grimmer and more Hobbesian vision than what one normally meets in French public debates. This makes them appealing guides to the dark world in which the French now find themselves.

    Jan 5, 2018

  • First responders work at a crime scene in lower Manhattan, where a Home Depot truck was used to strike people on a bike path, New York City, October 31, 2017

    Commentary

    Navigating the Latest Terrorism Trend

    Terrorists are increasingly using vehicles as attack weapons, killing more than 150 people in the last 18 months. If this trend continues, the urban landscape will change as bollards, barricades and barriers, chicanes and checkpoints surround and subdivide public spaces. But do they make us safer?

    Dec 19, 2017

  • An MQ-9 Reaper flies a combat mission over southern Afghanistan

    Commentary

    Terrorism Before and During the War on Terror: A Look at the Numbers

    While terror-related headlines tend to imply the worst, the truth is much more prosaic. Terrorism since 9/11 is down—and dramatically so—in countries not suffering from civil wars and insurgencies.

    Dec 12, 2017

  • A U.S. soldier takes part in a defense exercise with British and Lithuanian soldiers in Mikyciai, Lithuania, June 17, 2017

    Report

    Rethinking the U.S. Approach to Force Planning

    The force planning standard used since the end of the Cold War is ill-suited for today. Force planning should focus on modernizing the capabilities and posture of U.S. forces to better enable them to deter and defeat aggression by China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, and Salafist-jihadi groups.

    Dec 7, 2017

  • Journal Article

    Airpower in Counter-Terrorist Operations: Balancing Objectives and Risks

    Overview and analysis of harnessing airpower in counter-terrorist operations.

    Dec 6, 2017

  • An armored personnel carrier on a highway after President Rodrigo Duterte announced the liberation of Marawi in Lanao Del Sur, Philippines, October 28, 2017

    Commentary

    Is the Philippines the Next Caliphate?

    The Philippines is a long way from the Islamic State's birthplace in the Middle East. But the jihadis have already seized and held a city there for three months. Even if the Philippines doesn't become a major node in the Islamic State's network, it will likely remain fertile ground for supporting the group and its violent agenda.

    Nov 28, 2017

  • Militant Islamist fighters waving flags, travel in vehicles as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province June 30, 2014

    Commentary

    All for One and One for All: Toward a Coordinated EU Approach on Returnees

    To combat the threat posed by returning fighters, EU intelligence and police agencies will need to coordinate to find potential terrorists before they are able to conduct attacks in Europe. The return of dangerous foreign fighters to European soil should be motivation enough for an overarching review of each country’s vulnerabilities.

    Nov 28, 2017

  • Journal Article

    Innovative Methods and Procedures to Assess Counter-violent-radicalisation Techniques in Europe

    We found that IMPACT Europe's main result is a more robust and quasi-standardised mode of measuring effectiveness, broadly defining and evaluating programmes and interventions.

    Nov 17, 2017

  • Protective barriers are placed along a bike path near a memorial for the victims of the October 31 attack in New York City, November 3, 2017

    Commentary

    America Is Great at Fighting Terrorism, but Terror Is Alive and Well

    When terrorists adopt a strategy of pure terror, it's hard to prevent attacks like those in Nice, Columbus, London, Barcelona, or New York. Instead, strategies are needed to counter terrorism's ultimate aim—to instill fear—and to remove some of the incentives of potential attackers.

    Nov 16, 2017

  • Somali fighters belonging to Ahlusunah warjama, a moderate sect fighting against the hardline Al-Shabaab insurgents, display weapons during a parade in Mogadishu, July 31, 2010

    Commentary

    Why Africa Could Provide an 'ISIS Renaissance'

    ISIS has been one of the most formidable and well-organized terrorist groups in history and it would be naive to assume that ISIS will simply cease operations in the face of recent losses. More likely, the group, along with its many followers, will attempt to disperse to a new base, and parts of Africa are likely targets for a new caliphate.

    Nov 15, 2017

  • Fighters of Syrian Democratic Forces dance after liberating Raqqa from Islamic State militants, Raqqa, Syria, October 18, 2017

    Commentary

    The Future of Counterterrorism Efforts in Syria

    It is time for the U.S.-led coalition to figure out what its next counterterrorism steps should be, even as it continues to work toward stabilizing the country and navigating the path toward a political settlement with the other major powers involved.

    Nov 15, 2017

  • Russia's President Vladimir Putin attends the first working session of the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, July 7, 2017

    Testimony

    Russia's Approach to Counterterrorism and Counterinsurgency

    The United States and Russia have both suffered at the hands of Islamic militants. But any attempts by Moscow to compare its campaign against jihadists with America's war on terrorism are inaccurate. Russia's brutal methods have often made things worse, so the United States shouldn't view Russia as a viable counterterrorism partner.

    Nov 7, 2017

  • French soldiers set up camp while waiting for the delivery of a replacement piece for a vehicle in Inat, Mali, May 27, 2016

    Commentary

    What Is the Sahel G5 Force and Why Should the U.S. Support It?

    The French Joint Force G-5 Sahel plan offers the possibility of strengthening the Sahel nations' efforts to combat terrorism. Supporting the French initiative is a worthy undertaking, provided, of course, that everyone understands what it is and is not.

    Nov 6, 2017

  • Syrian Democratic Forces fighters ride atop of military vehicle as they celebrate victory in Raqqa, Syria, October 17, 2017

    Commentary

    Why the Fall of the 'Caliphate' in Syria Will Not Ease Western Security Concerns

    A Syria and Iraq free of ISIS do not, unfortunately, free the West from the ISIS threat. Instead, ISIS is likely to either disperse, with its followers prepared to carry out a range of further attacks, or attempt to regroup in the fragile states of Africa.

    Nov 3, 2017