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

    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

    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

  • U.S. soldiers watch an Afghan soldier sign for the transfer of mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles to Afghan security forces on Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, February 14, 2015

    Testimony

    A Path Forward for U.S. Government Spending in Afghanistan

    For more than 16 years, U.S. assistance to Afghanistan has been enormous in scale and complexity. But how effective is U.S. spending when it comes to building a stable democracy in Afghanistan? How can the United States reduce its financial commitment while mitigating risks?

    May 9, 2018

  • Lorton, Virginia, June 6, 2017: Elizabeth and Ventoux, a canine/handler team with Virginia Task Force 1, participate in a training drill. They practiced searching for people trapped within the rubble pile.

    Brochure

    HSOAC Annual Report 2016–2017

    The Homeland Security Operational Analysis Center (HSOAC) 2016-2017 Annual Report offers an overview of HSOAC capabilities and highlights how RAND is supporting the mission of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

    May 7, 2018

  • A mourner writes a message on a makeshift memorial a day after a van struck multiple people along a major intersection in north Toronto, Ontario, Canada, April 24, 2018

    Commentary

    The Continuing Plague of Vehicle Attacks: What Can Be Done?

    Attacks using vehicles like the one in Toronto this week are difficult to defend against, but that doesn't mean that law enforcement and local security forces can't make progress. There are four crucial elements to consider when thinking about mitigating the effects of ramming attacks.

    Apr 26, 2018

  • Destroyed buildings during sunset at the frontline in Raqqa, Syria, October 6, 2017

    Commentary

    Defeating the ISIS Nostalgia Narrative

    It is crucial that the United States and its coalition partners take into consideration and preempt the ISIS nostalgia narratives that may seek to define the group's legacy and prepare a foundation for its resurgence throughout the Middle East and beyond. The legacy ISIS should be remembered for is one of misery and despair.

    Apr 19, 2018

  • A soldier stands guard in a tower overlooking Camp Delta at Guantanamo Bay naval base, Cuba, December 31, 2009

    Commentary

    Now's the Time to Act on Guantanamo

    Most of the 41 terror suspects who remain confined at Guantanamo Bay are unlikely to be released from custody any time soon. But the possibility that new detainees may soon be sent to the facility argues for early action to accelerate the legal proceedings against those already being held.

    Apr 16, 2018

  • Turkish flag flutters at Turkey's border gate with Syria, overlooking ruins of buildings destroyed during fighting with the Islamic State militants in Kobani, Syria, October 11, 2017

    Commentary

    Turkey's Double Standard: How Ankara's Actions Contradict Its Claims of Opposing the Islamic State

    Turkey wants to take credit for the demise of the Islamic State, insisting that Turkey's actions in northern Syria have helped lay the groundwork for a sustainable peace. But the evidence clearly suggests otherwise.

    Apr 13, 2018

  • A member of al Qaeda's Nusra Front near Idlib, Syria, December 2, 2014

    Commentary

    Do Terrorist Groups Really Die?

    The persistence of al Qaeda and ISIS underscores terrorist groups' adaptability in the 21st century. Both organizations maintain global, regional, and local influence in the face of immense pressure. As terrorist groups fall, the West should watch them closely to prevent a resurgence.

    Apr 9, 2018

  • London skyline with overlay of the UK and EU flags

    Commentary

    'Zero-sum' Approach to Defence and Security During Brexit Negotiations Risks a Less Secure UK and EU

    It is in the interest of neither the UK nor the EU to have a 'zero sum' approach to defense and security during Brexit negotiations. Both sides have plenty to lose if it turns into a 'messy divorce.'

    Apr 4, 2018

  • Turkish forces patrol an area in Afrin, Syria, March 22, 2018

    Commentary

    What's Turkey Trying to Achieve in Syria?

    Turkish President Erdoğan is attempting to cement his political legitimacy among Syrian Sunnis by portraying himself as their savior. If the United States withdraws from Syria after the mission to defeat ISIS is complete, it will essentially be ceding the advantage to Erdoğan, who can continue pushing his agenda.

    Apr 2, 2018

  • Passengers walks past sign prior to immigration control

    Commentary

    European Security Cooperation Should Remain Comprehensive—Especially After Brexit

    During Brexit negotiations, it could be tempting for the UK and EU to use certain security structures as 'bargaining chips'. However, it is in no one's interests for both sides to adopt a 'zero-sum' approach to security discussions.

    Mar 28, 2018

  • Multimedia

    Overcoming the Threats of Our Strategic Competitors

    What weapon systems and posture enhancements should Congress and the Defense Department consider to ensure that America is prepared for responsive and resilient operations in theaters of potential conflict? In this Congressional briefing, RAND's David Ochmanek discusses findings from his recent research.

    Mar 27, 2018

  • British mother Tareena Shakil, who took her 14-month-old son to Syria to join ISIS fighters, was jailed for six years on February 1, 2016

    Commentary

    Not All Returning 'Jihadi Brides' Are Dangerous

    Since the fall of the ISIS caliphate in late 2017, Western societies have expressed concern about the possibility of returning foreign fighters. It is not just returning men that worry governments. The prospect of women, known as “jihadi brides,” returning to the West, often with children born under ISIS rule, is also a potential problem.

    Feb 28, 2018

  • 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

    Erdogan's tolerance of ISIS fighters in Turkey amounts to tacit approval. The danger posed by ISIS using Turkey as a staging ground could become more formidable than the threat currently posed by Kurdish terrorism. Tolerating ISIS to fight the Kurds is therefore 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