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

  • Testimony

    The Terrorist Threat from Al Shabaab

    At the moment, al Shabaab does not appear to be plotting attacks against the U.S. homeland but there are several reasons why America should still be concerned. Its terrorist attack at Westgate Mall in Kenya and its follow-up attacks are a stark reminder that the Somalia-based group remains lethal.

    Oct 3, 2013

  • Somali National Army soldiers stand at attention in a training camp

    Commentary

    A Threat to U.S. Interests in East Africa

    The Shabab terrorist attack at Westgate Mall in Kenya and its follow-up attacks in the country are a stark reminder that the Somalia-based group poses a threat to the United States and its interests in East Africa, writes Seth G. Jones.

    Oct 2, 2013

  • People walk through the 9-11 Empty Sky memorial across from New York's One World Trade Center at Liberty State Park in Jersey City, NJ

    Blog

    What Has America—and Its Enemies—Learned Since 9/11?

    The attacks on September 11, 2001 provoked America's global campaign against terrorism and jump-started the nation's efforts to improve intelligence, airport security, and emergency preparedness. Meanwhile, al Qaeda, while weakened by the death of its leader in 2011, still generates fear.

    Sep 11, 2013

  • French nationals Philippe Verdon and Serge Lazarevic are being held hostage in Mali by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)

    Report

    North Africa's Menace: AQIM's Evolution and the U.S. Policy Response

    Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is an amorphous, resilient, and adaptive terrorist organization that has shown extraordinary staying power in the face of counterterrorism operations. The United States should not be the tip of the spear in efforts against AQIM, except in cases involving a direct and imminent threat to the U.S. homeland.

    Sep 9, 2013

  • U.S. consulate in Lahore, Pakistan

    Commentary

    Building a More Secure American Embassy

    The recent decision to close 19 U.S. embassies and consulates in the Middle East and Africa because of intelligence indicating terrorist planning for unspecific attacks underscores the need to continue focusing attention and resources on the danger al-Qaida and its affiliates pose to the United States and its allies.

    Sep 5, 2013

  • Fighters from Islamist Syrian rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra

    Commentary

    Syria's Growing Jihad

    The escalating war in Syria presents a growing threat to the Middle East and the West more broadly. Led by groups like Jabhat al-Nusra (the Victory Front), an al-Qaeda-affiliated organization, Syria is becoming a training ground for foreign fighters and a microcosm of sectarian conflict.

    Sep 3, 2013

  • 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