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.

  • Smoke superimposed over a mass grave of ISIS fighters found in 2017 near Fallujah, Iraq, photos by Iraqi ministry of defence and Marina/Adobe Stock; design by Peter Soriano/RAND Corporation

    Report

    Who Are America's Jihadists?

    Sep 11, 2020

    U.S. residents who plotted to carry out jihadist attacks at home and those who traveled or attempted to travel to join jihadists abroad represent two dimensions of the terrorist threat. But both types are driven by internal motivations and circumstances as much as they are inspired by external groups.

  • Protesters destroy an American flag pulled down from the U.S. embassy in Cairo September 11, 2012, photo by Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters

    Report

    Most Attacks on Western Diplomatic Facilities Culminate in Two Hours or Less

    Jan 25, 2021

    There have been 33 successful seizures of Western diplomatic facilities since 1979. The majority of attacks culminated in two hours or less, and over 90 percent culminated in six hours or less. A review of these attacks can help in developing effective response capabilities.

Explore Counterterrorism

  • The Sinjar Resistance Units, an offshoot of a leftist Kurdish organization, and Abdulkhaleq al-Jarba, a Arab tribal militia, have opened up a new front against Islamic State militants in northern Iraq, April 30, 2016

    Commentary

    Partitioning Iraq: Make a Detailed Case, or Cease and Desist

    The mostly non-Iraqi voices who want to divide the country into three ethno-sectarian cantonments—Shi'a, Sunni, and Kurd—owe the Iraqi people extensive, detailed clarification. If neither the Iraqi Arab polity nor Iraq's most powerful political factions seek three-way partition, then the case should be closed.

    May 16, 2016

  • Iraqi security forces hold an ISIS flag that they pulled down at the University of Anbar, in Anbar province, July 26, 2015

    Commentary

    In the Event of the Islamic State's Untimely Demise...

    If they haven't already, the Islamic State's leaders will soon formulate a contingency strategy, a “Plan B” that the West will then be forced to contend with.

    May 11, 2016

  • U.S. and Iraqi officers checking IDs in Baghdad, Iraq, October 2006

    Commentary

    Iraq Reconciliation Requires American Help

    It is time for the United States to step in and take the lead on the crucial process of reconciling the Sunnis with their government in order to bolster the tactical fight against ISIL and to ensure Iraq does not further destabilize.

    May 5, 2016

  • A team of U.S. Army soldiers from Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa lead counter-IED training with the Kenyan Army

    Commentary

    A Competing Risks Approach to Security Sector Assistance for Fragile States

    How should the U.S. balance the risks of cooperating with troubling governments against the risk that ISIS or similar groups could gain strength in these fragile states?

    May 2, 2016

  • People react to the death of Osama bin Laden in Times Square in New York City, May 2, 2011

    Commentary

    Five Years After the Death of Osama bin Laden, Is the World Safer?

    What effect did killing bin Laden have on al Qaeda's ability to pursue its jihadist goals? Does high-value targeting contribute to counterterrorist strategy more broadly? Does killing terrorist leaders work?

    May 2, 2016

  • Report

    Report

    Preliminary Analysis of Helicopter Options to Support Tunisian Counterterrorism Operations

    Rising costs and delivery delays might mean that Tunisia should look at potential alternatives to the UH-60M Blackhawk helicopter. This report assesses potential alternatives that are cost-effective and capable of performing the assault mission.

    Apr 27, 2016

  • Members of the Tunisian parliament wave flags after approving the country's new constitution in Tunis, January 26, 2014

    Commentary

    Tunisia Is an Arab Spring Success Story

    Tunisia has not unraveled into civil war like Syria or Libya. It has not undergone a counter-revolution that returned it to the autocracy of its pre-revolution days, like Egypt has. Tunisia is fragile, but its success is vital to the long-term stability and societal health of the Middle East.

    Apr 21, 2016

  • News Release

    News Release

    Countering Islamic State Requires a Stronger U.S.-Coalition Strategy

    While the campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has degraded the group by targeting its leadership and retaking a portion of territory, achieving lasting defeat of ISIL in Iraq and Syria will be elusive without local forces capable of holding territory.

    Apr 20, 2016

  • U.S. Army paratroopers jump from a C-17 Globemaster III over the Juliet Drop Zone in Pordenone, Italy, June 12, 2013

    Commentary

    Reimagining and Modernizing U.S. Airborne Forces for the 21st Century

    Many of the challenges the U.S. will face in the coming years across the range of military operations could be deep inland and require rapid response. Airborne forcible entry — with reimagined and modernized airborne forces — would offer decisionmakers options in crises that they do not possess today.

    Apr 20, 2016

  • Saudi Defense Minister Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (center) poses with chiefs of staff of the Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism in Riyadh, March 27, 2016

    Report

    A Saudi-Led Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism Could Benefit U.S. Interests

    A military alliance of Muslim-majority nations to fight terrorism poses no danger to U.S. interests. In fact, the Saudi-led initiative could be helpful in several ways beyond current levels of cooperation.

    Apr 19, 2016

  • Peshmerga soldiers provide security during react-to-contact training near Irbil, Iraq, October 2015

    Report

    Countering ISIL Requires a Stronger U.S.-Coalition Strategy

    While the campaign against ISIL has degraded the group by targeting its leadership and retaking a portion of territory, achieving lasting defeat of ISIL in Iraq and Syria will require increased effort by the U.S. to help train local forces to hold territory. Also, political agreements must be forged to resolve key drivers of conflict among Iraqis and Syrians.

    Apr 19, 2016

  • Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, Tennessee

    Commentary

    Anti-Muslim Rhetoric Is a National Security Threat

    National security and counterterrorism experts agree that rhetoric that paints all Muslims as terrorists or terrorist sympathizers has a high chance of breeding future terrorists. And evidence suggests that such language can hamper U.S. efforts to stop terrorists before they strike and to capture them after attacks.

    Apr 13, 2016

  • Syrian army soldiers inspect the site of a two bomb blasts in the government-controlled city of Homs, Syria, on February 21, 2016

    Commentary

    A New Kind of Battlefield Awaits the U.S. Military — Megacities

    Megacities are urban areas that seep into one another and have more than 10 million inhabitants. To counter violent non-state actors operating in megacities in the future, the U.S. military will have to be able to piece together a comprehensive and actionable intelligence picture, and under enormously challenging circumstances.

    Apr 6, 2016

  • Transportation soldiers and civilian harbormasters move cargo containers onto awaiting vessels in a training exercise at Joint Base Langley-Eustis

    Commentary

    Ten Years After the Safe Port Act, Are America's Ports Secure?

    The economic importance and visibility of America's ports make them attractive terrorism targets. Port security has improved, but many of the threats that motivated the Safe Ports Act in 2006 remain, and new dangers have emerged, including cyber threats.

    Apr 6, 2016

  • Philippine Army Lt. Col. Henry Bellan (left) and U.S. Army Lt. Col. John Garrity (right) bury a time capsule during a groundbreaking ceremony in San Narciso, Philippines, March 18, 2013

    Report

    The Impact of U.S. Special Operations Forces in the Philippines

    U.S. special operations forces' activities in the Philippines between 2001 and 2014 helped reduce transnational terrorist threats and support for terrorist groups. They also increased Philippine security forces' capabilities and enhanced bilateral defense ties.

    Apr 6, 2016

  • News Release

    News Release

    New Research Finds Counter-Terrorism TACTICS for European Cities

    Counter-terrorism technologies and diverse partnerships are essential when dealing with terrorist threats in cities. The TACTICS project team has developed a technology-ready concept that could support counter-terrorism operations across Europe.

    Mar 31, 2016

  • Iraqi girls gesture peace signs after Iraqi security forces entered the town of Amerli, September 1, 2014

    Commentary

    Inciting Peace: Elevating Alternatives to ISIL's Message

    Malicious ideas, ideologies, and narratives (such as those promoted by ISIL) cannot just be eliminated — they need to be replaced.

    Mar 30, 2016

  • A Tunisian soldier holds his position during an exercise along the frontier with Libya in Sabkeht Alyun, Tunisia February 6, 2016

    Blog

    Tunisia's Role in Fight Against Terrorism Discussed at RAND Conference

    The fight against terrorism in Tunisia is a shared priority and responsibility with the U.S. and Europe but will also depend greatly on solving the security issues in neighboring Libya, according to participants at a March 23 conference at RAND.

    Mar 30, 2016

  • Advisor Training Cell prepares female engagement team for Marine Expeditionary Unit employment, at Camp Pendleton, California

    Commentary

    Women in Special Security Forces: What the U.S. Can Learn from the Afghans

    The contributions of the women in Afghanistan's special security forces demonstrate the unique value that women can bring to special operations forces in socially conservative societies. They are successful in tactical roles and in operations requiring interaction with the community.

    Mar 28, 2016

  • A street memorial outside the Maelbeek subway station following Tuesday's bombings in Brussels, Belgium, March 24, 2016

    Commentary

    What It Was Like Being in Brussels During the Terrorist Attacks

    Bearing witness to a terrorist attack was a startling and surreal experience, one that tragically drove home the need for an expanded knowledge base on terrorism and radicalization.

    Mar 28, 2016