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

  • Vehicles drive near Tabqa Dam on the Euphrates River, in the town of Tabqa, after Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) captured it from Islamic State militants, Syria May 12, 2017

    Commentary

    Developing a Comprehensive Strategy for Countering the Islamic State

    Despite substantial policy and military focus, U.S. attempts to stop the Islamic State group have met with only varying degrees of success. A patient, long-term U.S. investment in governance—including a renewed commitment to addressing the root causes of instability in the Middle East—is needed in Iraq and Syria.

    Jun 5, 2017

  • A student in the Army's first Cyber Basic Officer Leader Course uses a field computer to probe for a targeted wireless network signal during a field training exercise at Fort Gordon, Georgia, February 1, 2017

    Commentary

    What Happens After ISIS Goes Underground

    As the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria suffers defeats on the battlefield, it is expanding its cyber presence to continue to encourage attacks abroad. The more the group relies on cyberspace, the more likely it will expose important segments of its organization to detection and disruption.

    May 30, 2017

  • Anti-government protesters outside Sana'a University raise their fingers and fists in the air while chanting for a new Yemen, February 25, 2011

    Report

    Undermining Violent Extremism in Yemen

    In the past 50 years, Yemen has faced significant political instability, including multiple civil wars. Why might Yemenis reject political violence despite persistent conflict and unrest? And how can the United States and its partners undermine violent extremism?

    May 22, 2017

  • Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (left) shakes hands with U.S President Donald Trump in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, May 16, 2017

    Commentary

    A Turning Point in U.S-Turkish Relations?

    While Turkish President Erdoğan and U.S. President Trump emphasized the positive aspects of bilateral relations after their meeting, there remain points of contention. The stakes at this meeting and its outcome are high for both Turkey and the United States, and could mark a major milestone in the relationship.

    May 21, 2017

  • A former Islamic State prison in the town of Tabqa, after Syrian Democratic Forces captured it from Islamic State militants, Syria, May 12, 2017.

    Commentary

    ISIS: Weakened but Still Potent

    ISIS is being defeated as an insurgency while preparing to transform into a clandestine terrorist group. But ISIS will continue to pose a serious threat to the countries where it operates and to the Western nations that it targets as it evolves.

    May 18, 2017

  • Displaced Iraqi people pass a torn Islamic State banner as the battle between the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service and Islamic State militants continues nearby, in western Mosul, Iraq, April 23, 2017

    Commentary

    Can the Islamic State Survive Financially?

    Significant gains have been made in attacking the Islamic State's cash and diminishing its ability to finance high-frequency attacks in Iraq and Syria. But the group may retain enough money to support sporadic attacks in the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe.

    May 15, 2017

  • U.S. Army Special Forces members train Iraqi fighters from Hashid Shaabi at Makhmur camp in Iraq, December 11, 2016

    Commentary

    SOF's Evolving Role: Warfare 'By, With, and Through' Local Forces

    U.S. special operations forces are not providing the muscle of the frontline combat troops fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Instead, they are providing meaningful support to the various indigenous forces. If they succeed, this model could become a standard option in the U.S. military playbook.

    May 9, 2017

  • 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

    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.

    May 8, 2017

  • An Iraqi security guard walks inside Al-Salam hospital destroyed during the fighting between Iraqi forces and Islamic State militants east of Mosul, Iraq May 2, 2017.

    Commentary

    The Caliphate Is Crumbling: What Comes Next?

    ISIL's caliphate is crumbling. But unless the U.S.-led coalition can reduce the many possibilities that might give ISIL's down-and-out members a reason to fight on, the militants will continue to contribute to disorder in the region.

    May 3, 2017

  • Afghan Special Forces prepare for battle with the Taliban on the outskirts of Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand Province, Afghanistan, October 10, 2016

    Testimony

    U.S. Policy Toward Afghanistan and the Region

    Afghanistan remains a key frontline state in the struggle against terrorist groups. With that in mind, the United States should make Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan an enduring part of its counterterrorism efforts.

    Apr 27, 2017

  • Person holding a smartphone displaying influencer marketing

    Report

    How to Empower ISIS Opponents on Twitter

    ISIS supporters on average produce 50 percent more tweets per day than ISIS opponents. It's critical to empower ISIS opponents on Twitter by drawing on lessons from the marketing industry.

    Apr 21, 2017

  • The 24-hour Operations Room inside GCHQ, Cheltenham, UK, November 17, 2015

    Commentary

    Five Eyes at 70: Where to from Here?

    The Five Eyes intelligence alliance of the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand began in the Cold War to meet the threat posed by the Soviet Union. Today, the nations' intelligence communities must contend with domestic terrorism and cyber threats while remaining ahead of Russia and China.

    Apr 21, 2017

  • News Release

    News Release

    Islamic State Control of People Down 83% in Iraq and 56% in Syria from Peak Levels

    The Islamic State has lost substantial control of territory and people but still conducts and inspires attacks around the world. The U.S. should pursue a light rollback strategy that relies on local forces backed by U.S. special operations forces, intelligence assets, and airpower.

    Apr 20, 2017

  • Iraqi forces advance against Islamic State militants in western Mosul, Iraq, March 6, 2017

    Report

    Rolling Back the Islamic State

    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.

    Apr 20, 2017

  • Malian soldiers ride in the back of a truck in Timbuktu, January 2015

    Report

    How to Address Mali's Terrorist Problem

    The terrorist threat in Mali is growing, but the country's military remains largely ineffective. Mali can't handle the threat without outside help. How can the United States engage Mali and other partners to help foster greater security and stability?

    Apr 20, 2017

  • An Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service convoy moves towards Mosul, Iraq, February 23, 2017

    Commentary

    Assessing U.S. Terrorism Challenges Around the Globe

    For the United States, countering terrorism saw both progress and setbacks in 2016. The U.S. will need to keep pace with terrorist abilities to adapt to its countermeasures while maintaining a high operational tempo punctuated by aggressive counterterrorism strikes.

    Apr 13, 2017

  • Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, Orlando police chief John Mina, and FBI agent Ron Hopper at a news conference after the attack at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, June 12, 2016

    Commentary

    Domestic Terrorism: Weighing the Challenges

    The U.S. is struggling to find an effective way to counter violent extremism at home and counteract the presence of terrorist groups on social media. Policymakers are tasked with managing a military defeat of IS in the Middle East while lowering the risk of blowback in the U.S. at the same time.

    Apr 13, 2017

  • A battle damage assessment image of Shayrat Airfield, Syria, following U.S. missile strikes, April 6, 2017

    Commentary

    The Need for a Strategy from the Trump Administration

    The Trump administration's strategy toward Syria, Russia, and its campaign to counter the Islamic State group needs to be guided by a clear sense of priorities and realism regarding the stakes for the U.S. Its standing in the Middle East and the world could depend on how skillfully this crisis is handled.

    Apr 10, 2017

  • Armed police officers stand at the Carriage Gates entrance to the Houses of Parliament, following the attack in Westminster earlier in the week, in London, Britain March 25, 2017

    Commentary

    Two Very Different Views of Terrorism and What to Do About Them

    Does the public want fewer government initiatives aimed at fighting terrorism, or more? The answer could lie in the type of attack involved as well as in individual perceptions of risk and how much inconvenience people are willing to accept in the name of public safety.

    Apr 6, 2017

  • Firefighters put out fires at oil wells that were set ablaze by Islamic State militants before they fled the oil-producing region of Qayyara, Iraq, January 28, 2017

    Report

    The Future of ISIL's Finances

    ISIL has been described as the wealthiest terrorist group in history. It has developed diversified revenue streams from seizing control of banks, extortion, and trafficking oil. As global counter-ISIL efforts progress, how might the group's finances evolve?

    Mar 29, 2017