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.

  • A young boy waves a black flag inscribed with Islamic verses at a rally of Tunisian Salafi Islamists in the central town of Kairouan, May 20, 2012, photo by Anis Mili/Reuters

    Report

    What Will Drive the Next Generation of Salafi-Jihadis?

    Aug 22, 2019

    Continued economic stagnation and a high youth unemployment rate, exacerbated by the Muslim youth bulge, could lead to failed expectations and spur radicalization among disenchanted Gen Z Muslims. And this cohort's familiarity with the internet could foreshadow an adaptive, tech-savvy terrorist threat.

Explore Terrorism Threat Assessment

  • Soldiers entering building

    Testimony

    Jihadist Sanctuaries in Syria and Iraq

    The large number of Western violent extremists in sanctuaries like Syria and Iraq requires the adoption of policies and practices in the U.S. homeland and overseas to ensure that these extremists are detected if they return to the West and, more broadly, to reduce the flow of foreign fighters from the West.

    Jul 24, 2014

  • News Release

    Increase in Jihadist Threat Calls for New U.S. Strategy to Combat Terrorism

    Since 2010, there has been a 58 percent increase in the number of jihadist groups, a doubling of fighters, and a tripling of attacks by al Qaeda affiliates. The U.S. cannot afford to withdraw or remain disengaged from key parts of North Africa, the Middle East, or South Asia.

    Jun 4, 2014

  • silhouette of militant with rifle

    Report

    Increase in Jihadist Threat Calls for New U.S. Strategy to Combat Terrorism

    Since 2010, there has been a 58 percent increase in the number of jihadist groups, a doubling of fighters, and a tripling of attacks by al Qaeda affiliates. The U.S. cannot afford to withdraw or remain disengaged from key parts of North Africa, the Middle East, or South Asia.

    Jun 4, 2014

  • Masked Sunni gunmen pose with their weapons during a patrol outside the city of Falluja

    Commentary

    The Accelerating Spread of Terrorism

    The number of al Qaeda and other jihadist groups and fighters are growing, not shrinking. U.S. disengagement—or even risking the return of terrorists to the field by freeing them from detention—is not the answer to the threat they pose.

    Jun 3, 2014

  • Iraqi security forces arrest suspected militants of the al Qaeda-linked Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Hawija on April 24

    Commentary

    A Bigger, but Less Unified, al Qaeda

    In the long run, al Qaeda might be able to reel in its more unreliable offspring, assert more control, demand their obedience, and call upon their resources to assist in global operations. But without a stronger center, that possibility seems remote.

    Apr 25, 2014

  • Runners continue to run towards the finish line of the Boston Marathon as an explosion erupts on April 15, 2013

    Commentary

    After Boston, Beware DIY Attacks: Front & Center

    Orlando Sentinel editorial writer Darryl E. Owens interviewed Brian Michael Jenkins, senior adviser to the president of RAND. They discussed last year's Boston Marathon bombing and the current threat of terrorist acts in the United States.

    Apr 16, 2014

  • Al Qaeda fighters celebrate on vehicles taken from Iraqi security forces in Fallujah, March 20, 2014

    Testimony

    Counterterrorism and the Role of Special Operations Forces

    Over the long run, the persistent nature of the terrorism threat to the United States suggests that special operations forces should remain a key part of the struggle against al Qa’ida and other Salafi-jihadist groups.

    Apr 8, 2014

  • Testimony

    The Extremist Threat to the U.S. Homeland: Addendum

    Document submitted on March 12, 2014 as an addendum to testimony presented before the House Homeland Security Committee on January 15, 2014.

    Mar 24, 2014

  • Personnel from the Iraqi security forces arrest suspected militants of the al Qaeda-linked Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant

    Commentary

    What Might Terrorists Do Next?

    No one can predict with any certainty what terrorists might do next. If there is one lesson America learned about counterterrorism on 9/11, it's that the coming attack may look nothing like those that preceded it.

    Feb 24, 2014

  • Passengers line up in LaGuardia Airport as it was reopened after being evacuated due to a suspicious package being found by a baggage handler, February 4, 2014

    Commentary

    Experts Are Working to Develop Evidence-Based Ways to Measure Anti-Terrorism Efforts

    The effects of security measures ought not to be measured solely in terms of prevention. Different types of countermeasures produce different effects, such as deterrence, making it easier for security to intervene during an attempted attack, and providing visible security that reassures the public.

    Feb 7, 2014

  • Security personnel patrol the Olympic Park at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games

    Commentary

    The Secretive Battle for Sochi

    Russia seems to be taking prudent steps to make the games the safe and secure display of athleticism and international good fellowship they once were. The outcome hinges on a pair of unknowns: the secret counterterrorism strategies Russian authorities have undertaken and the terrorists' capacity for creativity and surprise.

    Feb 5, 2014

  • airport security check with passenger walking through metal detector

    Commentary

    The Real Homeland Security Issues for 2014

    Americans should be able to discuss the terrorist threat and how best to meet it, how much of the country’s precious resources should be devoted to homeland security, and the impact intelligence efforts can have on personal privacy and freedom.

    Feb 5, 2014

  • Runners pass through scanners as they are checked by New York Police Department officers upon arrival for the New York City Marathon, November 3, 2013

    Testimony

    Back to the Future: The Resurgence of Salafi-Jihadists

    U.S. policymakers should be concerned about the number, size, and activity of al Qa'ida and other Salafi-jihadist groups. Some of these groups pose a direct threat to the U.S. homeland, embassies, and citizens overseas, while others are currently targeting local regimes.

    Feb 4, 2014

  • Russian Cossacks stand guard near the Rosa Khutor Alpine Resort in Krasnaya Polyana near Sochi

    Commentary

    The Terrorist Threat to the Sochi Olympics

    From the Black September attacks on Israeli athletes in 1972, to the post 9/11 games in Salt Lake City, to the 2012 games in London, security has been a concern at all modern Olympics. Recent terrorist attacks in Russia, though, present particular concern as the world's athletes descend on Sochi.

    Jan 31, 2014

  • Volunteers wait to enter through a security check point in the Costal Athletes Village as preparations continue for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics

    Commentary

    Sochi and Singletons

    Given Russian capabilities, it would be surprising if a terrorist group was able to mount a successful large-scale, coordinated attack during the Games. For spectators and athletes alike, the more likely threat will be from individuals, acting alone outside of arenas and other official venues.

    Jan 31, 2014

  • U.S. and Afghan soldiers search a camel's cargo

    Report

    Improving the U.S. Military's Understanding of Unstable Environments Vulnerable to Violent Extremist Groups: Insights from Social Science

    What factors create and perpetuate environments susceptible to insurgency, terrorism, and other extremist violence and instability? Twelve are presented to inform military decisions on allocation of analytic and security assistance resources.

    Jan 16, 2014

  • Islamist Salafis in Jordan calling for the release of their groups held in Jordanian, Syrian, and Iraqi prisons

    Testimony

    The Extremist Threat to the U.S. Homeland

    U.S. policymakers should be concerned about the number, size, and activity of al Qa'ida and other Salafi-jihadist groups. Some of these groups pose a direct threat to the U.S. homeland, embassies, and citizens overseas, while others are currently targeting local regimes.

    Jan 15, 2014

  • Report

    Identifying Enemies Among Us: Evolving Terrorist Threats and the Continuing Challenges of Domestic Intelligence Collection and Information Sharing

    Officials, practitioners, and counterterrorism experts gathered this year to examine domestic intelligence and information sharing as they relate to terrorist threats.

    Jan 13, 2014

  • Members of Islamist Syrian rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra man a checkpoint on the border crossing between Syria and Jordan

    Commentary

    Al Qaeda Is Down — Al Qaedism Isn't

    The counterterror campaign is a marathon run against a slowly declining revolutionary idea, al Qaedism, which will take many more years to stamp out fully. The U.S. should not lose sight of the fact that while 12 years of counterterrorism efforts have helped keep it safe, many more years of vigilance lie ahead.

    Jan 6, 2014

  • A suspected al Qaeda militant holds his head as he stands with co-defendants behind bars at the state security court of appeals in Sanaa March 2013

    Q&A

    Whither al Qaeda: A 'Tri-alogue' with Brian Michael Jenkins, Seth Jones, and Andrew Liepman

    Recent comments by key U.S. lawmakers have again raised the issue of where the United States is in its campaign against al Qaeda. This has left some to wonder if the terrorism threat is increasing and if Americans are not as safe as they were a year or two ago. Three senior RAND analysts offer their take.

    Dec 10, 2013