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.

  • Dilapidated structures are seen in Marawi City, Philippines, May 11, 2019, abandoned two years since pro-Islamic State militants began their attacks there, photo by Eloisa Lopez/Reuters

    Project

    Evaluating Programs That Counter Violent Extremism

    Sep 9, 2020

    Countries around the world are fighting a growing threat of violent extremism. Many have begun implementing countering violent extremism (CVE) interventions to prevent radicalization. Have these programs been effective?

Explore Counterterrorism

  • Mozambique's President Filipe Nyusi is saluted as he is sworn-in for a second term in Maputo, Mozambique, January 15, 2020, photo by Grant Neuenburg/Reuters

    Commentary

    Repression in Mozambique Is Stoking an Islamist Insurgency, Risking Wider Unrest

    While Southern Africa has largely remained immune from violent extremism, the situation in northern Mozambique threatens to destabilize the country and could potentially spread to other parts of the region. To effectively counter the growing threat, the government could devise a less heavy handed approach.

    Jun 5, 2020

  • Sailors from Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Two move in a tactical formation during a training evolution to locate, identify, render safe and dispose of an IED, July 12, 2010

    Commentary

    Competition in Iraq

    Tensions between the United States and Iran reached a boiling point in January 2020, when Iranian-backed forces attacked U.S. military and diplomatic facilities on Iraqi soil, and the United States retaliated. Policymakers and experts again asked: Why are we in Iraq? What would happen if we left, and why would it matter?

    Jun 5, 2020

  • MINUSMA Peacekeepers, during Operation Military 'FRELANA' to protect civilians and their property in Gao, Mali, July 11-12, 2017, photo by Harandane Dicko/ CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

    Commentary

    Why the UK May Be Sending Troops to Mali

    The UK government's decision to deploy an additional 250 soldiers to join the United Nations mission in Mali might be in Britain's security interests. Such deployments display the UK's commitment to international security and may well form a critical part of its post-BREXIT diplomacy.

    Mar 16, 2020

  • Two young people on their phones

    Report

    Countering Violent Extremism in Nigeria: Using a Text-Message Survey to Assess Radio Programs

    The authors present the results of a text message–based randomized controlled trial designed to assess the impact of a countering violent extremism (CVE)–themed radio program broadcast in northern Nigeria in 2018–2019.

    Mar 12, 2020

  • Gulbahar Jelilova, an ethnic Uighur activist from Kazakhstan, poses for a photograph in Istanbul, Turkey, November 16, 2018, photo by Murad Sezer/Reuters

    Commentary

    How Washington Could Make Beijing Listen on Xinjiang

    In autonomous Xinjiang, at least one million ethnic Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslim minorities have been incarcerated by the Chinese government. What can the United States and its allies do to help defuse this humanitarian crisis?

    Jan 17, 2020

  • A French soldier uses a sniffer dog to check for explosives during an area control operation in the Gourma region during the Operation Barkhane in Ndaki, Mali, July 29, 2019, photo by Benoit Tessier/Reuters

    Commentary

    Abandoning West Africa Carries Risks for U.S.

    News that the U.S. Department of Defense is contemplating a major drawdown in West Africa comes as the region is in crisis. For Americans, the Sahel crisis raises a fundamental question: Beyond basic humanitarian concern, if the Sahel falls apart, why should Americans care?

    Jan 3, 2020

  • Blog

    Most Popular RAND Research of 2019

    The search for lasting solutions to difficult policy problems starts with facts. Here are the 10 research projects that rand.org readers engaged with the most in 2019.

    Dec 24, 2019

  • Senegalese peacekeepers during a military operation in the Mopti region of Mali, July 5, 2019, photo by Gema Cortes/MINUSMA / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

    Commentary

    Mali Violence Shows Limits of Intervention

    Each year brings more violence to Mali and its neighbors. Mali and Burkina Faso are rapidly destabilizing; the situation in Niger is less dire, but that is hardly a commendation. Why is the violence in Mali getting worse given the significant efforts by the international community to stem it?

    Nov 22, 2019

  • A man prays at a memorial outside the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, following a mass shooting there four days earlier, October 31, 2018, photo by Cathal McNaughton/Reuters

    Commentary

    One Year After Tree of Life, We Still Aren't Talking Enough About Violent White Supremacy

    In the year since a gunman killed 11 worshippers in a Pittsburgh synagogue, the conversation about white supremacy has grown louder. But the United States still has a long way to go in dealing with this threat.

    Oct 27, 2019

  • A convoy of U.S. vehicles after withdrawing from northern Syria, on the outskirts of Dohuk, Iraq, October 21, 2019, photo by Ari Jalal/Reuters

    Commentary

    How the U.S. Withdrawal from Syria Provides a Boost to ISIS

    President Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria could provide the ISIS terrorist group with the time and space to regrow its organization and extend its networks throughout the Middle East. The longer-term strategic effects of the decision could reverberate in the region for years to come.

    Oct 21, 2019

  • Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a speech during a ceremony marking the death anniversary of the founder of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, in Tehran, Iran, June 4, 2017, photo by TIMA/Reuters

    Commentary

    Iran, the Unitary State

    Current and future U.S. policy toward Iran must begin with the premise that the Islamic Republic is the sum of its parts and that to try to empower moderates or disempower hard-liners is naive. Rather, Washington should strive to deal with Iran as it is, not as Washington wishes it were.

    Oct 18, 2019

  • Supporters of Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah wave Hezbollah and Lebanese flags at a rally marking the 10th anniversary of the end of Hezbollah's 2006 war with Israel, in Bint Jbeil, Lebanon August 13, 2016, photo by AZIZ TAHER/Reuters

    Commentary

    Iran's Proxies Are More Powerful Than Ever

    The Trump administration has pursued a so-called maximum pressure strategy designed to alter the course of Iran's foreign and security policies, which relies heavily on sanctions to change Iranian behavior. Financial sanctions are an important part of any counterterrorism strategy. But they aren't enough.

    Oct 16, 2019

  • The al-Hol displacement camp in Hasaka governorate, Syria, holds thousands of detainees linked to ISIS, April 2, 2019, photo by Ali Hashisho/Reuters

    Commentary

    The Terrorist Threat Posed by Neglect and Indifference

    Western countries have seemingly washed their hands when it comes to the aftermath of ISIS. By ignoring the threat and leaving it to the Iraqis and Syrian Kurds to deal with European citizens in detention camps, Western nations are helping the terrorists' ideology persist.

    Sep 23, 2019

  • The Maute group stronghold with an ISIS flag in Marawi City, in southern Philippines, May 29, 2017, photo by Erik De Castro/Reuters

    Commentary

    Southeast Asia Loves ISIS, but Is the Feeling Mutual?

    As the ISIS core in Iraq and Syria attempts to rebuild, Baghdadi and his lieutenants will have to make difficult decisions about where to allocate resources. Now that the caliphate is gone and ISIS must transform into an insurgency, the largely untested lands of Southeast Asia may yield rich rewards.

    Sep 16, 2019

  • Al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front fighters carry weapons on the back of pick-up trucks in Arsal, eastern Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, December 1, 2015, photo by Stringer/Reuters

    Commentary

    Al Qaeda Is Ready to Attack You Again

    As al Qaeda continues to evolve, one of the most pressing questions is to what extent the group is still focused on attacking the West. Does the absence of spectacular attacks attributed to al Qaeda since 9/11 represent a lack of capability or merely a shift in priorities?

    Sep 5, 2019

  • Mozambique on a map with a green pin, photo by Mark Rubens/Adobe Stock

    Commentary

    Counterproductive Counterinsurgency: Is Mozambique Creating the Next Boko Haram?

    Despite recent claims of ties to the Islamic State, the threat in Mozambique from the Islamist insurgent group al-Sunnah wa Jamaah appears to be domestic, with scarce evidence of direct ties to international extremist groups. But if the Mozambique government continues to respond in a heavy-handed manner, the threat is likely to grow, with potentially devastating effects for the country and region.

    Sep 3, 2019

  • CCTV cameras, photo by pixinoo/Getty Images

    Commentary

    The Contours of China's Evolving Counterterrorism Strategy

    In discussing terrorism, China often uses language that seems lifted directly out of U.S.-style war on terror rhetoric. But no one should be fooled. Beijing's sole strategy for counterterrorism is widespread surveillance and repression, completely out of proportion to the level of threat it faces. It is using the threat of terrorism to mute international criticism of these practices and to export them abroad.

    Aug 27, 2019

  • A young boy waves a black flag inscribed with Islamic verses at a rally of Tunisian Salafi Islamists in the central town of Kairouan, May 20, 2012, photo by Anis Mili/Reuters

    Report

    What Will Drive the Next Generation of Salafi-Jihadis?

    Continued economic stagnation and a high youth unemployment rate, exacerbated by the Muslim youth bulge, could lead to failed expectations and spur radicalization among disenchanted Gen Z Muslims. And this cohort's familiarity with the internet could foreshadow an adaptive, tech-savvy terrorist threat.

    Aug 22, 2019

  • An Egyptian military vehicle on the highway in northern Sinai, Egypt, May 25, 2015, photo by Asmaa Waguih/Reuters

    Commentary

    Making Headway Against the Sinai Insurgency

    Since 2013, Egypt has been engaged in the Sinai Peninsula against a deadly ISIS-affiliated insurgency. To make headway, the Egyptian government could focus on providing services in the region and repairing its relationship with citizens.

    Aug 12, 2019

  • Journal Article

    Using an Inoculation Message Approach to Promote Public Confidence in Protective Agencies

    This investigation tested the effectiveness of inoculation as a pre-crisis strategy in combating the effects of politically motivated violent acts.

    Jul 3, 2019