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.

  • Armed fighters over a background of Syrian, Iraqi, and U.S. currencies and gold ingots, photos by zabelin, Cimmerian, Vitoria Holdings LLC, and johan10/Getty Images

    Report

    U.S. Efforts Are Essential to Counter an Islamic State Comeback

    Aug 7, 2019

    The Islamic State can no longer rely on local funding sources as it did when it controlled territory. But as an insurgency, its expenses are far lower. With revenue from criminal activities and the cash it hoarded, the group will survive as a clandestine terrorist movement. Counterfinance, intelligence, and possibly military action will be needed.

  • People walk on the street, where Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared his caliphate back in 2014, in the old city of Mosul, Iraq, October 27, 2019, photo by Abdullah Rashid/Reuters

    Commentary

    Baghdadi's Death Will Make Global Affiliates More Independent

    Oct 28, 2019

    The recent death of Islamic State leader and self-proclaimed caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is a major blow to the Islamic State. Baghdadi held a kind of elusive charisma for the organization. He will be replaced, but this does not mean that the Islamic State will simply go back to business as usual.

Explore Terrorism Threat Assessment

  • Secretary Napolitano monitors the flooding in North Dakota at the National Operations Center

    Testimony

    Strengthening Strategic Planning and Management at DHS

    To meet complex security challenges in the future, the Department of Homeland Security must develop integrated plans that set priorities, direct resources to programs and activities to achieve outcomes consistent with these priorities, and conduct evaluations to ensure these outcomes are realized.

    Apr 26, 2013

  • Massachusetts National Guardsmen in Boston

    Commentary

    Reacting to Boston

    Basing public safety decisions on risk analysis allows authorities to devote public resources to those counterterrorism measures that have the potential to do the most good, writes Henry Willis.

    Apr 22, 2013

  • Testimony

    Managing September 12th in Cyberspace

    "The U.S., while worried about a '9/11 in cyberspace,' also ought to worry about what a '9/12 in cyberspace' would look like," warns Martin C. Libicki in testimony presented before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats on March 21, 2013. The consequences of the reaction to a cyberattack could be more serious than the consequences of the original action itself.

    Mar 21, 2013

  • Red network cables

    Testimony

    Managing September 12th in Cyberspace

    The U.S., while worried about a "9/11 in cyberspace," also ought to worry about what a "9/12 in cyberspace" would look like. The consequences of the reaction to a cyberattack could be more serious than the consequences of the original action itself.

    Mar 20, 2013

  • Timbuktu residents rally against control by Islamist group Ansar al-Din

    Commentary

    Al Qaeda Is Weak and Bungling—but Still Dangerous

    The swift march into Mali by a band of Islamist thugs demonstrates an efficient, opportunistic filling of a security vacuum more than an increase in jihadist power or influence, writes Andy Liepman.

    Feb 26, 2013

  • Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter visits Ankara and G, Turkey, Feb. 4, 2013. (DoD Photo By Glenn Fawcett) (Released)

    Report

    Assessing Multiple Data Points Can Help in Predicting Suicide Attack Targets

    Analysis of data on suicide attacks in Israel suggest that assessing sociocultural, political, economic, and demographic factors in addition to geospatial data enhances the ability to predict future suicide attack targets.

    Feb 18, 2013

  • The U.S. Consulate in Benghazi is seen in flames during a protest by an armed group said to have been protesting a film being produced in the U.S. September 11, 2012

    Report

    Embassy Security: From the Outside In

    U.S. embassies shored up security in the wake of the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. Going forward, the security plan for the U.S. diplomatic presence abroad must include strategies to detect and prevent such attacks before they occur.

    Feb 11, 2013

  • Touareg rebels in Mali hoist a flag

    Q&A

    The al Qaeda Threat in North Africa

    Last week's terrorist attack at the In Amenas gas complex in Algeria, along with the recent success of the militant groups fighting government forces in Mali, indicate al Qaeda and other terrorist groups are gaining influence in North Africa. RAND experts weigh in on the latest developments.

    Jan 24, 2013

  • A Tuareg rebel in Mali poses with an assault rifle.

    Commentary

    Hostage Taking Exposes Terror Threat in Africa

    There is a danger in viewing Mali through the prism of counter-terrorism, since the rebel element there is tangled up in movements and groups with a wide variety of interests and motives, ranging from sincere religious conviction to local political rivalries to base economic opportunism, writes Michael Shurkin.

    Jan 18, 2013

  • Commentary

    Al Qaeda Threat to U.S. Embassy in Yemen Raises Questions

    As in most war zones and high threat environments, one of the dangers to guard against is complacency...people become accustomed to a certain level of danger and assume that they have everything under control, when in fact they may have not fully thought through the problems posed by an enemy that is continually innovating, writes William Young.

    Jan 4, 2013

  • a huge demonstration marched to the federal palace to protest against the draft constitution and the constitutional decree announced by President Mohamed Morsi

    Commentary

    The Mirage of the Arab Spring

    Like it or not, the United States counts among its allies a number of authoritarian Arab countries, and they are essential partners in protecting its interests, writes Seth G. Jones. The normative hope that liberal democracy may flourish in the future must be balanced by the need to work with governments and societies as they exist today.

    Jan 3, 2013

  • Seth Jones, Prince Turki Al Faisal, and David Kilcullen at RAND's Politics Aside event

    Blog

    Counter Terrorism Through Diplomatic Goals

    At RAND's Politics Aside event, former Saudi Intelligence chief Prince Turki Al Faisal, RAND senior political scientist Seth Jones, and others talk with Reuters columnist David Rohde about strategies for dealing with terrorism.

    Dec 27, 2012

  • The Harbor Police K-9 Team explosive detection canine perform a search on luggage at San Diego International Airport

    Commentary

    More Secure or Less Free?

    It is not surprising that people report a willingness to trade convenience, money, and liberty for security. Legal precedent reinforces that decreased civil liberties may be accepted when confronting existential threats with demonstrably effective security—to a point, writes Henry H. Willis.

    Dec 17, 2012

  • terrorists silhouette

    Commentary

    Generations of Terrorism

    Whatever its eventual outcome, Syria's civil war has already produced thousands of experienced jihadists who will continue to threaten the region for years to come, writes Brian Michael Jenkins.

    Dec 13, 2012

  • Commentary

    Fake Boarding Pass Fears Inflated

    Instead of ratcheting back the PreCheck program because of manufactured fears about security lapses, TSA should be encouraged to expand this program to more airlines, more airports and more infrequent travelers, write Jack Riley and Lily Ablon.

    Dec 12, 2012

  • Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari says he has intelligence that members of al Qaeda are crossing from Iraq into Syria to carry out attacks, July 5, 2012

    Blog

    Another Problem in Syria: al Qaeda

    Beyond chemical weapons, another concern in the Syrian conflict is the rise in prominence of al Qaeda-affiliated fighters amid the opposition forces. There is a growing need to conduct a covert campaign against al Qaeda and other extremist groups gaining a presence in the country.

    Dec 12, 2012

  • Malian pro-government militia members take part in a training session at their base in Sevare, Mali, November 12, 2012

    Blog

    Unrest in Mali Leaves Opening for Radicalism

    African leaders meeting in Paris on Wednesday agreed that an African-led operation is needed to keep the western part of the continent from becoming overtaken by terrorists, including al Qaeda affiliates.

    Dec 6, 2012

  • Sheila C. Bair during the 'Assessing Risk: Where Will it Come From' panel discussion Friday, Nov. 16, 2012 at the RAND Politics Aside Event in Santa Monica, Calif.

    Blog

    Economic and Security Experts on What Keeps Them Awake at Night

    Former FDIC Chair Sheila Bair, former Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Admiral James Loy, economist Stephen Roach and others talk with Reuters Editor-in-Chief Stephen Adler on a panel called Assessing Risk: Where Will it Come From? at RAND's Politics Aside event.

    Nov 27, 2012

  • Two clips from an assault weapon lie upon a table

    Commentary

    Latest Alleged Homegrown 'Terrorists' Fit the Mold

    For many U.S.-born terror recruits, the prospect of blowing things up is a solution to an unsatisfactory life. Terrorism does not attract the well-adjusted, writes Brian Michael Jenkins.

    Nov 20, 2012

  • Events @ RAND Audio Podcast

    Multimedia

    A Conversation with Harold Brown, Former U.S. Defense Secretary

    In a conversation with former Northrop Grumman CEO Kent Kresa, Brown shares stories from his new book, Star-Spangled Security: Applying Lessons Learned over Six Decades Safeguarding America, and reflects on what those experiences teach us about current and future challenges facing the United States and the world.

    Nov 17, 2012