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

  • Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi speaking at the al-Nuri mosque in Mosul, July 5, 2014

    Commentary

    Is ISIS Leader Baghdadi Still Alive?

    The Russian military announced that it might have killed the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in an airstrike in Raqqa. Would his death weaken the group or will ISIS continue to adapt, evolve, and expand like al Qaeda did?

    Jun 22, 2017

  • Suitcase with microbiological weapon

    Commentary

    A Countering Bioterrorism Facility Worth a Second Look

    President Trump's proposed budget would close a laboratory dedicated to countering bioterrorism and providing the science behind bioterrorism response and recovery. Policymakers should assess whether the lab's capabilities are worth the price when weighed against the potential cost of a bioterror attack.

    Jun 7, 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

  • 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

  • People leave candles in memory of victims of a blast in the St. Petersburg metro, Russia, April 4, 2017

    Commentary

    Attacks on Russia Will Only Increase

    As Russia gets more involved with the Syrian civil war, it's likely that Sunni militants will intensify their campaign against Russia. But the key reason why Sunni attacks on Russia proper will increase is the fallout between Sunni jihadists in the Caucasus.

    Apr 4, 2017

  • Emergency services attend the scene outside Sennaya Ploshchad metro station in St. Petersburg, Russia

    Commentary

    How Russia Became the Jihadists' No. 1 Target

    Russia is fast replacing the United States as the number-one enemy of Al Qaeda, ISIS, and other Sunni jihadist groups motivated by violent and puritanical Salafist ideology. This shift is rooted in recent Russian actions in the Middle East.

    Apr 3, 2017

  • Fighters of the Syrian Islamist rebel group Jabhat Fateh al-Sham cheer on a pickup truck after a Russian helicopter was shot down in the north of Syria's rebel-held Idlib province, August 1, 2016

    Commentary

    Al Qaeda in Syria Can Change Its Name, but Not Its Stripes

    Al Qaeda in Syria, by any name, remains a dangerous and capable terrorist organization with the ability to conduct attacks in the West. Those seeking to grapple with the threat the group poses should focus less on its names and more on its actions.

    Mar 23, 2017

  • 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

    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.

    Mar 21, 2017

  • Members of the NYPD's Counterterrorism Bureau stand watch at the Union Square Holiday Market in Manhattan, December 20, 2016

    Commentary

    Taking the 'Terror' Out of Terrorism Requires Outsmarting Fear

    Terrorism aims to create terror. Building an effective counterterror strategy could help society understand how terrorism works, then work together toward a psychologically more resilient and less vulnerable mindset.

    Mar 16, 2017

  • A member of the counterterrorism task force stands guard in Times Square, New York City, December 31, 2016

    Testimony

    No Easy Solutions to the Persistent Terrorist Threat

    Jihadist terrorism isn't the most dangerous threat to the United States. But it is the most prominent. There are no clear solutions to this problem, and all America's counterterrorism options entail risks.

    Feb 14, 2017

  • A girl dances while women pray at a protest against the Trump administration's travel restriction at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, Texas, January 29, 2017

    Commentary

    Why a Travel Restriction Won't Stop Terrorism at Home

    It's not unreasonable to seek a review of immigration, and refugee-vetting procedures make sense. But America's jihadist terrorists are not imported from abroad. They are mostly homegrown.

    Feb 10, 2017

  • An international traveler arrives after U.S. President Donald Trump's executive order travel ban at Logan Airport in Boston, Massachusetts, January 30, 2017

    Multimedia

    Will Banning Travelers and Refugees Make Us Safer?

    In this Call with the Experts, RAND's Brian Michael Jenkins, one of the nation's leading experts on terrorism and homeland security, discusses what we know about the perpetrators of terrorism in the United States.

    Feb 9, 2017

  • Somali government soldiers secure the scene of an explosion in front of Dayah hotel in Somalia's capital Mogadishu, January 25, 2017

    Commentary

    U.S. Counterterrorism Strategy Must Be About More Than ISIS

    ISIS is a worthy candidate for eradication, but failing to also target its franchises, al-Qaida splinters, and other non-aligned groups in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia could allow other threats to metastasize.

    Feb 9, 2017

  • Iraqi army gather during a fight with Islamic State militants in Rashidiya, North of Mosul, Iraq, January 30, 2017.

    Commentary

    The Need for a Targeted Counter-ISIL Strategy

    Defeating ISIL is only possible if political conditions change in the Middle East, North and West Africa, and South Asia, and in ways that are exceedingly unlikely. The coalition should focus on reducing ISIL's ability to conduct attacks and on removing the underlying conditions that feed Sunni grievances.

    Feb 5, 2017

  • U.S. soldiers execute a fire mission to support Iraqi security forces during the Mosul counteroffensive in northern Iraq, December 24, 2016

    Report

    Countering ISIL as a Transregional Threat

    The U.S. counter-ISIL strategy must recognize the long-term nature of the global violent jihadi threat. U.S. diplomatic and military actions should focus on reducing the appeal of ISIL and disrupting the transregional network that supports it.

    Jan 31, 2017

  • A family walks next to an Iraqi tank during a fight with ISIS militants in Rashidiya, north of Mosul, Iraq, January 30, 2017

    Commentary

    Is ISIS Breaking Apart?

    The coalition tasked with countering ISIS has made progress, and ISIS is sure to break apart further over the next few years. Any splinter groups that result could differ from their parent organization, so counterterrorism strategies will need to adjust.

    Jan 31, 2017

  • Travelers are evacuated out of the terminal and onto the tarmac after a shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Florida, January 6, 2017

    Commentary

    When Is a Terrorist Really a Terrorist?

    Countering mass violence demands a distinction between attackers who are truly inspired by jihadism and those with lesser links. The latter includes people whose mental states and violent tendencies preexist their exposure to the ideology.

    Jan 27, 2017

  • A still from footage of Dylann Roof, who was convicted of killing nine people at a historically black church in South Carolina

    Commentary

    The Wrong Terrorism Narrative

    Solving the problem of homegrown terrorism in the U.S. requires understanding the true nature of the complex problem of violent extremism. With such knowledge, authorities and communities will be better able to develop strategies to prevent the next tragic terrorist killing.

    Jan 15, 2017

  • Testimony

    Fifteen Years After 9/11: A Preliminary Balance Sheet: Addendum

    Document submitted on January 11, 2017 as an addendum to testimony presented before the House Armed Services Committee on September 21, 2016.

    Jan 12, 2017

  • The Dome of the Rock on the compound known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, and the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City, October 10, 2006

    Commentary

    Hidden Dangers of Moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem

    Moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would antagonize partners in the Islamic world who are key to fighting ISIS and other extremists. And any potential cooperation that might have developed between Israel and Arab states over common concerns about Iran could suffer.

    Dec 28, 2016