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 8, 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

  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivers a statement that sanctions will be lifted on Iran after the IAEA verified that Iran has met all conditions under the nuclear deal, January 16, 2016

    Commentary

    Iran, Terrorism, and Nonproliferation After the Nuclear Deal

    As Iran re-enters global markets, the Obama administration needs a strategy that accounts for the nuclear deal's potentially adverse implications for U.S. counterterrorism policy as well as its advantages for nonproliferation policy.

    Jan 28, 2016

  • A demonstration on infectious disease identification and treatment from the Benin Armed Force in Contonou, Benin, January 2013

    Commentary

    Countering Bioterror

    While advances in biotechnology have brought a wide range of benefits, biological weapons are now within the reach of many rogue nations and possibly some terrorist groups. Reports show that the U.S. is ill prepared to address this threat.

    Jan 18, 2016

  • U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter stands with Col. Otto Liller as he is greeted by Iraqi Major General Falah al Mohamedawi (L) at the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service Academy in Baghdad, July 23, 2015

    Commentary

    Solving the Geometrical Problem of Terrorism

    Think of terror organizations as being composed of four elements, organized in concentric circles with the leaders at the center bull's eye, operational elements in the second ring, supporters in the third, and sympathizers in the fourth. Neutralizing each group will require different strategies.

    Jan 13, 2016

  • A Kurdish refugee woman from Syria walks with her children at a refugee camp in Suruc, Turkey, November 17, 2014

    Report

    Lessening the Risk of Refugee Radicalization: Lessons from the Past

    Radicalization among refugee populations, such as the millions currently fleeing Syria, is not inevitable. Rather, comprehensive policies that go beyond immediate life-saving needs can mitigate the risk. But such policies were rare in past crises and even today can be difficult to put in place and sustain.

    Dec 28, 2015

  • A no-school sign is pictured at Florence Nightingale Middle School in the Cypress Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, December 15, 2015

    Commentary

    How Terrorist Threats Against LA and New York Schools Exposed Weaknesses

    The handling of terrorist threats on Los Angeles and New York City schools calls into question the ability of national and local government to coordinate a terrorist crisis involving two or more cities.

    Dec 23, 2015

  • Flowers and candles are displayed at a makeshift memorial after the December 2, 2015 shooting in San Bernardino, California

    Commentary

    How Terrorists Get Here

    Of 134 jihadist-inspired terrorists who have carried out or plotted attacks in the United States since 9/11, 96 were U.S. citizens and 19 others were legal permanent residents. While some level of comfort may be drawn from the fact that terrorists are not pouring into the country, there is no basis for complacency.

    Dec 18, 2015

  • Journal Article

    Using Causal Models in Heterogeneous Information Fusion to Detect Terrorists

    We describe basic research that uses a causal, uncertainty-sensitive computational model rooted in qualitative social science to fuse disparate pieces of threat information.

    Dec 14, 2015

  • President Barack Obama speaks about counterterrorism and the U.S. fight against the Islamic State, December 6, 2015

    Commentary

    If Terrorism Is Homegrown, a Visa Overhaul Won't Keep Americans Safe

    Despite being the focus of renewed scrutiny, only three people involved in terrorist incidents have entered the United States via the visa waiver program in the past quarter-century.

    Dec 7, 2015

  • Migrants walk toward the Austrian border town of Spielfeld, in Sentilj, Slovenia, November 18, 2015

    Testimony

    The Syrian Refugee Crisis and U.S. National Security

    America has a long tradition of offering protection to refugees, and the threat from refugees has historically been relatively low. However, the government should continue to reassess its refugee program and ensure that it safeguards national security.

    Nov 19, 2015

  • A passerby pauses near a makeshift memorial with U.S. and French flags outside the French embassy in Washington, November 16, 2015

    Testimony

    What the Paris Attacks Mean for U.S. Strategy in Syria and Homeland Security

    Events in the Middle East and Europe have direct implications for U.S. homeland security. And the attacks in Paris have increased pressure to step up the fight in Syria and Iraq. But Americans should consider the threat in context, and adjustments to U.S. strategy in Syria should only be a matter of degrees.

    Nov 19, 2015

  • Islamic State fighters take part in a military parade along the streets of northern Raqqa province, Syria, June 30, 2014

    Commentary

    ISIS Will Become More Deadly Before It Dies

    The lesson with ISIS is straightforward. Western populations should be prepared for an upsurge in violence if ISIS continues to lose territory. There has already been a growth in attacks and plots across the West with operational or inspirational ties to ISIS.

    Nov 18, 2015

  • A tank of the Syrian National Army in the outskirts of Damascus on September 21, 2013

    Testimony

    The Dynamics of the Conflicts in Syria and Iraq and the Threat Posed by Homegrown Terrorists and Returning Western Fighters

    The fighting in Iraq and Syria is likely to continue. How will the dynamics of these conflicts shape the region and events beyond? And what threat do Westerners who've joined jihadists on these battlefields and homegrown terrorists pose to the U.S. homeland?

    Nov 18, 2015

  • News Release

    Michael Wermuth Dies at 69; RAND Terrorism Expert Helped Establish U.S. Homeland Security Strategies

    Michael A. Wermuth, a RAND researcher and terrorism expert, died November 1. He was the executive director of a federal advisory panel on terrorism when it concluded — nearly two years before 9/11 — that a terrorist attack on U.S. soil was inevitable.

    Nov 4, 2015

  • Prisoner wearing handcuffs in a courtroom

    Commentary

    What's Next on the Convicted Terrorist's Timeline?

    As inmates near the end of their sentences for terrorism-related offenses, and with some individuals already freed, it's time to explore what considerations may be necessary.

    Nov 4, 2015

  • Members of the Kurdish peshmerga forces detain a man suspected of having links to the Islamic State, on the outskirts of Kirkuk March 15, 2015

    Commentary

    Any Review of Syria and Iraq Strategy Needs Realistic Reappraisal

    Since the American-led coalition bombing campaign began a year ago, ISIS has suffered some military setbacks and lost territory, but it also has been able to capture several more key cities in Iraq and Syria, and, despite the bombing, continues to attract a large number of foreign fighters.

    Sep 28, 2015

  • Tunisian soldiers and police patrol near Algeria's border in Kasserine, Tunisia July 4, 2015 after an Islamist militant attack on a beach hotel that killed 38 foreigners

    Commentary

    Algeria: The Bastion of North Africa

    Algeria could be a key regional partner for the United States and France in security and counterterrorism efforts against Al Qaeda and the Islamic State. It has a clear interest in quelling the threat posed by regional jihadists and it has local knowledge that could be helpful to U.S. counterterrorism efforts.

    Aug 11, 2015

  • Firemen work around the World Trade Center after both towers were attacked by terrorists on September 11, 2001

    Commentary

    The 1970s and the Birth of Contemporary Terrorism

    While terrorism worldwide has increased over the past four decades — and the threat of terrorism continues to dominate Americans' fears — the 14 years since 9/11 have been tranquil on the home front compared to the violent 1970s.

    Jul 30, 2015

  • A Syrian refugee shows his passport after he and others were rescued by a Greek coast guard patrol boat, May 29, 2015

    Testimony

    Admitting Syrian Refugees: The Intelligence Void and the Emerging Homeland Security Threat

    The deeply intertwined wars in Syria and Iraq continue to impact U.S. national security. Based on threats posed by a number of terrorist groups in the region, it's important to examine potential risks from increased refugee flows and ensure that the U.S. refugee program safeguards national security.

    Jun 24, 2015

  • A Tunisian holds up a flag during celebrations marking the fourth anniversary of Tunisia's revolution, Tunis, January 14, 2015

    Commentary

    Tunisia in the Crosshairs

    The open-ended nature of the Islamic State group's threat against Tunisair suggests that it intends to target Tunisia for the long haul. The United States should counter the threats with steadfast and sustained cooperation and assistance.

    Jun 22, 2015

  • An Afghan border policeman escorts a detained suspected Taliban fighter near Walli Was in Paktika province near the border with Pakistan November 5, 2012

    Commentary

    Expanding the Caliphate

    ISIS in South Asia, which it calls the Islamic State of Khorasan, is larger than most recognize, boasting between several hundred and several thousand fighters. But for now, it is closer to a loose affiliate than a direct arm of the organization.

    Jun 12, 2015