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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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  • Iraqi Army Commandos hone skills

    Testimony

    Re-Examining the Al Qa'ida Threat to the United States

    The United States needs to adopt an increasingly nuanced — but long-term — approach to countering the al Qa'ida movement, says Seth Jones. U.S. policymakers should view the al Qa'ida threat as a decades-long struggle like the Cold War.

    Jul 29, 2013

  • Mumbai at night

    Commentary

    Could Terrorists Pull Off a Mumbai-Style Attack in the U.S.?

    There is, at present, no known terrorist group in the United States that has the organization and human resources to assemble an operation of the complexity and scale of the Mumbai attack, writes Brian Michael Jenkins.

    Jul 10, 2013

  • Ceremony for the martyrs of the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack

    Testimony

    Lashkar-e Taiba and the Threat to the United States of a Mumbai-Style Attack

    Lashkar-e Taiba poses a grave danger to U.S. interests and citizens in South Asia, but is less of an immediate risk to the American homeland than a Mumbai-style attack — one dramatic and shocking enough to inspire widespread terror even without the use of weapons of mass destruction or a casualty-count in the thousands.

    Jun 12, 2013

  • Muslims protest terror attack on Mumbai

    Testimony

    The Threat of a Mumbai-Style Terrorist Attack in the United States

    A Mumbai-style attack is conceivable in the United States, although probably not one at anywhere near the scale of the 2008 assault in India, writes Brian Michael Jenkins.

    Jun 12, 2013

  • map of Syria

    Testimony

    Terrorist Threat to the United States from Syria Will Likely Increase

    Syria is attracting a growing cadre of foreign fighters from the West, who could potentially return home with the capability to conduct attacks against the United States and its allies, says Seth Jones.

    May 22, 2013

  • An MQ-1C Gray Eagle unmanned aircraft

    Commentary

    Drones Are Useful, but Not the Solution or the Problem

    The effectiveness of our attacks, particularly by drones, has already decimated the al Qaeda hierarchy, writes Harold Brown. That achievement, together with the negative effect on Muslim publics of drone attacks, suggests that the rate of their usage could be moderated.

    May 16, 2013

  • a woman talking to Boston police near site of Marathon bombings

    Commentary

    Crowd-sourcing Our Security

    Involvement can transform members of the public from helpless bystanders into active participants in their own defense, thereby reducing fear and alarm, writes Brian Michael Jenkins.

    May 13, 2013

  • Report

    A Computational Model of Public Support for Insurgency and Terrorism - A Prototype for More-General Social-Science Modeling

    In the past, qualitative conceptual causal models called "factor trees" were used to identify the factors that contribute to aspects of terrorism or insurgency and how the factors relate to each other. This report goes beyond the qualitative by specifying a prototype computational social-science model of public support for terrorism and insurgency.

    May 1, 2013

  • 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