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.

Explore Terrorism Threat Assessment

  • A man on a computer in a dark room

    Commentary

    Getting the Threat Right

    Would-be jihadist warriors are angry, eager for adventure, out to assuage personal humiliation and demonstrate their manhood. Many appear to be motivated by personal crises—terrorism does not attract the well adjusted, writes Brian Michael Jenkins.

    Jun 15, 2012

  • Armed militant

    Commentary

    A Year After Osama bin Laden's Death, Obituaries for al Qaeda Are Still Way Too Premature

    Predictions of al Qaeda's imminent demise are rooted more in wishful thinking and politicians' desire for applause lines than in rigorous analysis, writes Seth G. Jones.

    Apr 24, 2012

  • Three Islamic women

    Commentary

    Terror's 'Invisible Women'

    For their part, a younger generation of female jihadists has come to believe that acts of violence can be just as liberating politically and spiritually for women as for men, writes Karla Cunningham.

    Apr 4, 2012

  • News Release

    Conflict with al Qaeda Will Continue Into Its Third Decade, Although Tactics May Change

    While al Qaeda's capacity for large-scale attacks has been drastically reduced and the organization seriously weakened, the United States can expect to continue its battle with the terrorist group for many years to come.

    Feb 16, 2012

  • Report

    Conflict with al Qaeda Will Continue Into Its Third Decade, Although Tactics May Change

    While al Qaeda's capacity for large-scale attacks has been drastically reduced and the organization seriously weakened, the United States can expect to continue its battle with the terrorist group for many years to come.

    Feb 16, 2012

  • A street in Qom, Iran

    Commentary

    Al Qaeda in Iran

    Iran is in many ways a safer territory from which al Qaeda can operate. The United States has targeted al Qaeda in Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, and other countries, but it has limited operational reach in Iran, writes Seth G. Jones.

    Jan 29, 2012

  • Testimony

    Al Qaeda After Bin Laden: Implications for American Strategy: Addendum

    Document submitted on November 1, 2011 as an addendum to testimony presented before the House Armed Services Committee, Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities, on June 22, 2011.

    Nov 2, 2011

  • The under-construction One World Trade Center stands over New York's Manhattan skyline on August 24, 2011, photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters

    Commentary

    Five Myths about 9/11

    Fear has made al-Qaeda the world's top terrorist nuclear power, yet it possesses not a single nuke. This is a lesson in how terrorism works, writes Brian Michael Jenkins.

    Sep 2, 2011

  • Report

    Reintegrating Afghan Insurgents into Their Local Communities

    Former Taliban and other insurgents provide an invaluable source of information on their previous colleagues, and can ultimately cause momentum to shift toward counterinsurgent forces. Steps can be taken to increase the likelihood of reintegrating fighters into their communities.

    Jul 20, 2011

  • Testimony

    Al Qaeda after bin Laden

    We have greatly reduced al Qaeda's capacity for large-scale attacks, but the terrorist campaign led by al Qaeda may go on for many years. It is fair to call it a war, without implying that, like America’s past wars, it must have a finite ending.

    Jun 22, 2011

  • Commentary

    Osama a Wizard of Illusion and Rhetoric

    Bin Laden was chairman of the board, not CEO, using his moral authority to urge his tiny army forward, pointing out new ways to kill Americans, encouraging followers to think outside the typical terrorist playbook, writes Brian Michael Jenkins.

    Jun 1, 2011

  • Commentary

    Glimpse of bin Laden Techniques in Captured Records of al-Qa'ida in Iraq

    Captured financial documents of al-Qa'ida's Iraq affiliate in Anbar Province revealed its internal operations and enabled one of the most comprehensive assessments of an al-Qa'ida linked group, write Benjamin Bahney, Renny McPherson, and Howard J. Shatz.

    May 27, 2011

  • Testimony

    The Future of Al Qa'ida

    Even after the death of Osama bin Laden, al Qa'ida and allied groups continue to present a grave threat to the United States and its allies by overseeing and encouraging terrorist operations, managing a robust propaganda campaign, conducting training, and facilitating financial assistance.

    May 24, 2011

  • Commentary

    Al-Qaeda after bin Laden

    Wary of communicating with each other and with al Qaeda's field commands, al Qaeda central could become more isolated, more dependent on its affiliates, allied groups, and individual acolytes, writes Brian Michael Jenkins.

    May 12, 2011

  • Report

    Resource-Constrained Spatial Hot Spot Identification

    Describes a methodology for identifying areas where problem events are more pronounced and directing resources toward those areas.

    May 11, 2011

  • Commentary

    Can You Help Stop Terror Plots?

    Of the plots foiled in the last 10 years on U.S. soil, the would-be terrorists came from many different ethnic groups. We know of no cases where ethnic profiling helped stop a terrorist plot, write John Hollywood and Kevin J. Strom.

    May 10, 2011

  • Commentary

    Could Bin Laden's Death Prompt a Cyber Attack?

    A truly monumental attack that could cripple key U.S. computer systems — something akin to the Stuxnet worms attack on Iran's nuclear infrastructure, for example — would take many months of planning, significant expertise, and a great deal of money to pull off, writes Isaac Porche.

    May 6, 2011

  • Commentary

    What Al Qaeda Is Thinking Now: Defanged, but Desperate to Show They're Still in the Fight

    There may be some spontaneous acts by individuals enraged by Bin Laden's death who are inspired to follow him into martyrdom. But these are the spasms of reaction, not planned retaliatory operations, and will not demonstrate that Al Qaeda can survive Bin Laden, writes Brian Michael Jenkins.

    May 4, 2011

  • Testimony

    The Al Qa'ida Threat in Pakistan

    Even before the killing of Osama bin Laden, with the growing instability across the Arab world, some argued that the primary al Qa'ida threat now comes from the Persian Gulf or North Africa. While these regions certainly present a threat to Western security, al Qa'ida's primary command and control structure remains situated in Pakistan.

    May 3, 2011

  • Commentary

    What Is the Terrorism Threat Now? The Local Level

    How should police and intelligence agencies deal with the specter of homegrown terrorism? One of the best tools available is intelligence gleaned from the local community, writes Peter Chalk.

    Mar 10, 2011