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

  • 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 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

  • Muslims listen to a Turkish imam during Friday prayers at the Turkish Kuba Camii mosque in Cologne's district of Kalk, Germany, October 14, 2016

    Commentary

    Countering Violent Islamist Extremism: The Value of Words Over War

    It is highly probable that the world will witness more attacks on civilian-centric locations as groups like the Islamic State group try to prove their continued relevance. Governments need a more nuanced strategy aimed at helping communities counter the conditions that contribute to extremist violence.

    Sep 1, 2017

  • U.S. President Donald Trump announces his strategy for the war in Afghanistan during an address to the nation from Fort Myer, Virginia, August 21, 2017

    Commentary

    Trump's New Afghanistan Strategy: Governing from the Center?

    The president has embraced a national security establishment strategy for Afghanistan with a veneer that does not alter its essence. The result is likely to disappoint some of his supporters and to be criticized by his opponents, but it will also secure a measure of bipartisan support.

    Aug 22, 2017

  • Workers place concrete barriers to prevent possible attacks on the walk Muelle Uno in Malaga, Spain, on August 18, 2017, a day after a van crashed into pedestrians at Las Ramblas

    Commentary

    When the Car Is a Terror Weapon, Can We Prepare for Attacks?

    Soft targets are notoriously difficult to protect from terrorism. Terrorists' latest shift to using vehicles to conduct attacks only compounds the problem.

    Aug 18, 2017

  • Testimony

    Testimony

    The Terrorist Diaspora: After the Fall of the Caliphate: Addendum

    Document submitted August 11, 2017, as an addendum to testimony before the House Committee on Homeland Security, Task Force on Denying Terrorists Entry into the United States on July 13, 2017.

    Aug 14, 2017

  • A fighter of the Syrian Islamist rebel group Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, the former al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, rides in an armored vehicle in Aleppo, Syria, August 5, 2016

    Commentary

    Will Al Qaeda Make a Comeback?

    Al Qaeda's revival will likely hinge on its ability to take advantage of opportunities such as the withdrawal of counterterrorism forces from key battlefields, more revolt in the Middle East, U.S. or European policies that feed the perception of Muslim oppression, or the rise of a charismatic jihadist leader.

    Aug 7, 2017

  • Multimedia

    The Terrorist Diaspora

    An overview of the testimony presented by Colin Clarke before the House Homeland Security Committee Task Force on Denying Terrorists Entry into the United States on July 13, 2017.

    Jul 13, 2017

  • Members of al Qaeda's Nusra Front ride on a pickup truck mounted with an anti-aircraft weapon in Ariha, Syria, May 29, 2015

    Testimony

    How Al-Qaida Could Resurge

    Several factors may impact al-Qaida's rise or decline over the next several years. Most of these are outside of al-Qaida's control, but much would depend on how al-Qaida or similar groups responded to them.

    Jul 13, 2017

  • A member of Iraqi security forces holds an Islamic State flag on the top of a destroyed building from clashes in the Old City of Mosul, Iraq, July 10, 2017

    Testimony

    The Terrorist Diaspora: After the Fall of the Caliphate

    As operations against ISIS in Mosul conclude, militants are likely already fleeing—and preparing to wage jihad elsewhere. How can the United States identify and mitigate the threat posed by these foreign fighters?

    Jul 13, 2017

  • Iraqi soldiers pose with the Islamic State flag in al-Shura, Iraq, which they recaptured on October 30, 2016

    Blog

    Vickers, Crocker, Bergen, and Mudd Headline RAND ISIS Conference

    Panelists at a RAND conference on ISIS agreed that efforts to protect the U.S. homeland and conduct campaigns to dismantle extremist groups have had success. But many long-term challenges to the broader world order remain that will require strategic patience.

    Jul 6, 2017

  • The Washington Monument on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

    Commentary

    How to Harden America's Soft Targets

    The U.S. government must choose where to apply limited resources to defend soft targets. But it could expand its information-sharing efforts with other governments and local law enforcement. Broad intelligence sharing and more training could help identify potential attackers before they can execute their plans.

    Jul 5, 2017

  • The Grand al-Nuri Mosque where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a new caliphate in July 2014 is seen in ruins after it was retaken by Iraqi forces from Islamic State militants, June 30, 2017

    Commentary

    Can the Islamic State Survive If Baghdadi Is Dead?

    If and when self-declared Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is killed, it will have little effect on the threat posed by the Islamic State to global security. The far more important objective is to continue dismantling the organization as a whole, including its affiliates in Libya, Egypt, Nigeria, and Afghanistan.

    Jun 30, 2017

  • Two women pay their respects to victims of the bombing in Manchester, Britain, May 23, 2017

    Commentary

    It's Difficult to Know If Counter-Extremism Programs in Europe Are Working

    The benefits of a stronger evaluation culture for counter-extremism and radicalization programs are clear. Evaluation can provide an evidence-based judgement as to whether a program is working, delivering expected results, and providing value for the cost.

    Jun 26, 2017

  • A Kurdish fighter from the People's Protection Units watches smoke rise after a coalition airstrike in Raqqa, Syria, June 16, 2017

    Commentary

    The Islamic State's Disposable Army

    To leaders of the Islamic State group, murder of its own and collective suicide are keys to its defense strategy. The group targets malcontents and the most suggestible, knowing they are desperate to belong to something and willing to die for it.

    Jun 20, 2017

  • Chemical experts inspect the site of a suicide truck bomb attack at a petrol station in Hilla, Iraq, November 25, 2016

    Commentary

    Can We Predict Where Terrorists Will Strike Next?

    Terrorism has escalated horizontally, not vertically. Instead of weapons of mass destruction, there has been a proliferation of low-level attacks. The trick will be to predict and prevent new plots.

    Jun 19, 2017

  • Smoke rises from the al-Mishlab district in Raqqa's southeastern outskirts, Syria, June 7, 2017

    Commentary

    When the Caliphate Falls, What Then for U.S. Policy?

    The eventual fall of ISIS-controlled Raqqa will necessitate a review of U.S. policy in Syria. Policymakers can start thinking about the questions it will raise now.

    Jun 16, 2017

  • People lay flowers after a vigil to remember the victims of the attack on London Bridge and Borough Market, at Potters Field Park, London, June 5, 2017

    Commentary

    London Bridge Attack: The Latest Example of 'Pure Terror'

    Terrorists can attack anything, anywhere, any time. Preventing all pure terrorism is impossible, but seeking ways to divert vulnerable people from the terror path as Prime Minister May has discussed is a worthy step in that direction.

    Jun 5, 2017

  • Police attend to an attack on London Bridge in Britain, June 3, 2017

    Commentary

    How Vehicular Terrorism Became Mainstream

    The terrorist attack that began when a van mowed down pedestrians on London Bridge is a reminder that vehicular terrorism has become mainstream. How can authorities safeguard against such low-tech attacks?

    Jun 5, 2017