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 19, 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

  • 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 to remember the victims of the New York October 31 attack, in New York City, U.S., 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 is challenging to prevent attacks like those seen 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 those who might be motivated to conduct them.

    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

  • Nigerien soldiers prepare their magazines for a dismounted patrol during Exercise Flintlock 2017 in Diffa, Niger, March 11, 2017

    Commentary

    The Real Questions We Should Be Asking About Niger

    In the wake of the deaths of four U.S. servicemen in Niger, Americans are embroiled in a pointless political squabble. The focus should be on developing a greater understanding of the risks and benefits of U.S. counterterrorism operations abroad.

    Oct 30, 2017

  • Iraqi security forces stand guard in an oil refinery, north of Baghdad, in Baiji, Iraq, October 16, 2015

    Commentary

    Oil, Extortion Still Paying Off for ISIS

    ISIS's oil revenues declined from a peak of $40 million per month in 2015 to $4 million per month as of early October 2017. Despite the massive reduction, it's still a substantial amount of money for a group whose expenditures decrease with the size of the population and territory it controls and decreased recruitment.

    Oct 27, 2017

  • A U.S. Army Special Forces weapons sergeant observes a Nigerien soldier while practicing buddy team movement drills in Diffa, Niger, March 11, 2017

    Commentary

    U.S. Helping Niger Halt Spread of Terror in Region

    Niger is at the epicenter of the war on terror, with local and regional violent groups based there and entering the country from nearly every side. U.S. troops are there to train Niger's security services — not to fight. They are also assisting French forces who are fighting there.

    Oct 25, 2017

  • Journal Article

    Bush, Obama, And Trump: The Evolution Of U.S. Counterterrorist Policy Since 9/11

    9/11 and the U.S response that followed profoundly affected America's political landscape and its culture, perhaps permanently.

    Oct 6, 2017

  • Iraqi security forces inspect the site of a bomb attack at a police checkpoint on a highway near the southern Iraqi city of Nassiriya, Iraq, September 14, 2017

    Commentary

    How ISIS Is Transforming

    The campaign to counter ISIS has made significant progress, but predictions of the group's demise are premature. It is transitioning from an insurgent organization with a fixed headquarters to a clandestine terrorist network dispersed throughout the globe.

    Sep 25, 2017

  • Suspected former Islamic State (IS) fighters Ayoub B. (R) and Ebrahim Hadj B. (L), hide their faces as they wait for the start of their trial in a courtroom in Calle, Germany November 30, 2015

    Commentary

    How Will Authorities Know When Foreign Fighters Have Returned?

    As the Islamic State's territory shrinks and its prestige declines, militants will try to find their way home. Many foreign fighters began as criminals, and many might turn to crime on their return. One of the most productive ways to identify and disrupt returning fighters is to focus on the criminal underworld.

    Sep 25, 2017

  • Multimedia

    What Will It Take to Prevent a Security Decline in Mosul?

    In this September 22nd Congressional Briefing, RAND Senior Policy Researchers Shelly Culbertson and Linda Robinson discuss what must be done to stabilize Mosul and Iraq after the defeat of ISIS.

    Sep 22, 2017

  • Security forces deploy to secure the area after an overnight raid on a restaurant in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, August 14, 2017

    Commentary

    Sahel Governments Need More Security Assistance

    Developments in the Sahel are cause for alarm. Despite the presence of an active French counterterrorism force and a UN peacekeeping mission, al Qaeda groups are thriving. The region would benefit from approaches that combine police and military operations with economic development and improved governance.

    Sep 14, 2017

  • News Release

    Satellite Imagery Analysis Reveals Economic Decay Within Islamic State

    The Islamic State contributed to a 23 percent reduction in the GDP of cities under its control, based on novel applications of satellite-derived data. Over the course of its peak territorial control and decline through mid-2016, the economy of the Islamic State showed clear signs of decay across multiple sectors.

    Sep 13, 2017

  • A man and a boy ride a bicycle past a damaged mosque along a deserted street filled with debris in Deir al-Zor, Syria, March 5, 2014

    Report

    ISIL's Negative Economic Impacts on Iraq and Syria

    The Islamic State reduced the GDP of cities under its control by 23 percent. The group was able to maintain stable conditions in parts of Mosul and Raqqah, but conditions elsewhere deteriorated under poor governance and an inability to defend its territory from military opposition.

    Sep 12, 2017

  • A color-coded image showing the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) measured around Raqqah, Syria, including the city's border

    Project

    When the Islamic State Comes to Town: Iraq and Syria from Space

    Using satellite imagery and a novel analytic approach, RAND experts developed a fine-grained, data-driven assessment of economic life inside ISIL's caliphate.

    Sep 12, 2017

  • A police van parks near pots placed to prevent possible attacks on a pedestrian street in Madrid, Spain, August 18, 2017

    Commentary

    Vehicular Terrorism: Weighing the Benefits, and Worth, of Prevention

    The terrorist attack in Barcelona has added urgency to discussions of what can be done to prevent terrorists from using vehicles as weapons. Many potential security measures would be disruptive, costly, and could easily be circumvented by a determined terrorist.

    Sep 5, 2017

  • Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service soldiers perform reloading drills with their M-4 rifles during refit training near Baghdad, Iraq, July 13, 2016

    Commentary

    Managing Chaos in an Era of Great Power Competition

    As Washington policymakers seek a new strategic course, U.S. national security strategy should not neglect the importance of competition short of armed conflict. A U.S. strategy that incorporates this perspective from the beginning could manage chaos at a reasonable cost.

    Sep 5, 2017