Terrorism Threat Assessment

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In light of the global increase in the number and lethality of terrorist attacks, it has become imperative that nations, states, and private citizens become more involved in a strategic vision to recognize, prepare for, and — if possible — prevent such events. RAND research and analysis has provided policymakers with objective guidance and recommendations to improve preparedness, international collaboration, response, and recovery to this global threat.

  • Shi'ite fighters during an intensive security deployment against Islamic State militants in Balad, north of Baghdad, Iraq, December 22, 2014

    Report

    Understanding ISIL and Principles for Defeating It

    Mar 21, 2017

    U.S. policymakers weighing options to accelerate ISIL's defeat must develop specific courses of action that address both ISIL and the regional security issues that would emerge after its fall.

  • A flag of Islamic State militants is pictured above a destroyed house near the Clock Square in Raqqa, Syria, October 18, 2017

    Commentary

    ISIS Could Rise Again

    Dec 15, 2017

    ISIS has a tried-and-true playbook for bringing itself back from near death. Just a few years ago, it managed to resurrect itself after apparent defeat. And the history of that resurrection should serve as a warning of what may be coming now.

Explore Terrorism Threat Assessment

  • A memorial for victims of a mass shooting sits outside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, June 22, 2015

    Commentary

    How Do You Define Terrorism?

    The term “terrorism” remains contested. What constitutes a terrorist attack? Moreover, should groups who incite hatred be held responsible for such attacks—and be labeled as terrorists—even if they don't directly participate in the violence?

    Jun 4, 2018

  • Dissertation

    Value of Information for Policy Analysis

    This dissertation considers the viability of applying Value of Information methods in complex systems for policy analysis, concluding that these methods can be applied, but that different methods are appropriate in different cases.

    May 15, 2018

  • An officer with Schertz Police Department holds a FedEx truck from entering the scene of a blast at a FedEx facility in Schertz, Texas, U.S., March 20, 2018

    Commentary

    Austin Bombings Highlight a Potential Vulnerability in the Mail Delivery System

    USPS is better than private couriers at identifying and detecting suspicious packages. Given that they are increasingly handling "last mile" delivery, how can private mail delivery offices better detect and safely handle suspicious mail?

    Apr 17, 2018

  • Shi'ite Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) members hold an Islamic State flag, which they pulled down, during the war between Iraqi army and PMF against Islamic State militants in Tal Afar, Iraq, August 27, 2017

    Commentary

    Expanding the ISIS Brand

    Since its founding, the Islamic State has consistently expanded and contracted in order to achieve its objectives. To discern how ISIS might continue to expand, it makes sense to trace Al Qaeda's trajectory, which followed a similar pattern in the 2000s.

    Feb 19, 2018

  • Residents who returned from evacuation centers walk past a bullet-ridden house believed to have been rented by pro-Islamic State militant group leaders before their attack on the region, in Basak Malutlut district in Marawi City, Philippines, October 29, 2017

    Commentary

    Where Will ISIS Seek to Establish Its Next Safe Haven?

    Many of ISIS's surviving fighters will seek out new battlefields to continue waging jihad. By coordinating with its allies around the globe, the U.S. could work to help alleviate the conditions that lead states to fail, making them less appealing as sanctuaries where terrorists can rest, rearm, and recuperate.

    Feb 19, 2018

  • Flowers and pictures of victims of the Islamic State's assault on Istanbul's Reina nightclub are placed near its entrance in Istanbul, Turkey, January 17, 2017

    Commentary

    Erdogan's Fatal Blind Spot

    Erdogan's tolerance of ISIS fighters in Turkey amounts to tacit approval. The danger posed by ISIS using Turkey as a staging ground could become more formidable than the threat currently posed by Kurdish terrorism. Tolerating ISIS to fight the Kurds is therefore a dangerous and myopic policy.

    Feb 16, 2018

  • Autonomous vehicles on a highway

    Commentary

    Ensuring Cybersecurity Is Vital for a Driverless Future

    High-profile accidents involving autonomous vehicles (AVs) have led to recent discussions about the physical safety of people. However, it could be argued that consumers and manufacturers should be equally, if not more, concerned about the potential cybersecurity vulnerabilities in AVs.

    Feb 12, 2018

  • The new Smart concept autonomous car Vision EQ fortwo model is presented during the Frankfurt Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt, Germany, September 12, 2017

    Commentary

    Autonomous Vehicles: Terrorist Threat or Security Opportunity?

    Terrorist groups that track developments in technology could be considering using self-driving cars in place of suicide bombers or for ramming attacks. But autonomous vehicle capabilities offer a range of potential benefits to law enforcement and security operations, too.

    Jan 3, 2018

  • First responders work at a crime scene in lower Manhattan, where a Home Depot truck was used to strike people on a bike path, New York City, October 31, 2017

    Commentary

    Navigating the Latest Terrorism Trend

    Terrorists are increasingly using vehicles as attack weapons, killing more than 150 people in the last 18 months. If this trend continues, the urban landscape will change as bollards, barricades and barriers, chicanes and checkpoints surround and subdivide public spaces. But do they make us safer?

    Dec 19, 2017

  • An MQ-9 Reaper flies a combat mission over southern Afghanistan

    Commentary

    Terrorism Before and During the War on Terror: A Look at the Numbers

    While terror-related headlines tend to imply the worst, the truth is much more prosaic. Terrorism since 9/11 is down—and dramatically so—in countries not suffering from civil wars and insurgencies.

    Dec 12, 2017

  • Journal Article

    The Implications of Iran's Expanding Shi'a Foreign Fighter Network

    Well-trained and resourced, Iranian-directed Shi'a foreign fighters pose a significant potential threat to U.S. interests. The more robust this network grows, the more opportunities it will have to expand abroad.

    Dec 7, 2017

  • A law enforcement bomb technician walks away after preparing the controlled detonation of a suspicious object during a search for a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing, in Watertown, Massachusetts, April 19, 2013

    Commentary

    The Origins of America's Jihadists

    American jihadists are made in the United States, not imported. Homegrown terrorists have accounted for most of the jihadist activity in the U.S. since 9/11, with most of those who carried out or plotted terrorist attacks either born in the U.S. or arriving as children.

    Dec 4, 2017

  • Militant Islamist fighters waving flags, travel in vehicles as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province June 30, 2014

    Commentary

    All for One and One for All: Toward a Coordinated EU Approach on Returnees

    To combat the threat posed by returning fighters, EU intelligence and police agencies will need to coordinate to find potential terrorists before they are able to conduct attacks in Europe. The return of dangerous foreign fighters to European soil should be motivation enough for an overarching review of each country’s vulnerabilities.

    Nov 28, 2017

  • Protective barriers are placed along a bike path near a memorial for the victims of the October 31 attack in New York City, 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's hard to prevent attacks like those 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 potential attackers.

    Nov 16, 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

  • Police look toward the scene of a pickup truck attack on West Side Highway in Manhattan, New York, U.S., October 31 2017

    Commentary

    Terrorism Fatigue

    By continually staking claim to big and small terrorist attacks, regardless of target selection or casualty count, ISIS has attempted to instill a sense of omnipresent and unpredictable danger. And in the process, terrorism fatigue may be setting in around the world.

    Nov 1, 2017

  • Police investigate a pickup truck used in an attack on the West Side Highway in lower Manhattan in New York City, November 1, 2017

    Commentary

    New York Terror Attack: Can Vehicle Attacks Be Prevented?

    The recent vehicle attack in Manhattan was the deadliest terror attack on New York since 9/11. Preventing every attack is unrealistic, but with increased vigilance, cooperation with law enforcement, and intelligence sharing, citizens can help mitigate the threat of terrorism.

    Nov 1, 2017

  • Members of al Qaeda's Nusra Front move toward their positions near al-Zahra village, north of Aleppo city, November 25, 2014

    Commentary

    The Moderate Face of Al Qaeda

    Al Qaeda in Syria cut ties with its parent organization to portray itself as a legitimate, capable, and independent force in the Syrian civil war. The group appears dedicated to helping Syrians prevail, and now that ISIS has lost its capital in Raqqa, al Qaeda may be the only group viewed as militarily capable of challenging the Assad regime.

    Oct 24, 2017

  • Police officers check the identity cards of a people as security forces keep watch in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, March 24, 2017

    Commentary

    All That Could Go Wrong When Jihadists Return Home — to China

    About 300 of Western China's Uighurs, the Sunni Muslim indigenous ethnic minority, went to Syria to join ISIS. Now that the caliphate is collapsing, Beijing could soon find itself in the crosshairs of a religiously motivated, battle-hardened crop of returning terrorists.

    Sep 29, 2017