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.

  • Osama bin Laden (L) sits with his adviser Ayman al-Zawahiri, in a secret location in Afghanistan, November 10, 2001, photo by Hamid Mir/Reuters

    Blog

    Is Ayman al-Zawahiri Really the Future of Al-Qaida?

    Sep 11, 2020

    Nineteen years after 9/11, al Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahiri has yet to achieve the household notoriety evoked by his immediate predecessor, Osama bin Laden. But even though Zawahiri has conjured less of a personality cult, al Qaida's current leader is just as dangerous to the United States as its old one.

Explore Terrorism Threat Assessment

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter visits Ankara and G, Turkey, Feb. 4, 2013. (DoD Photo By Glenn Fawcett) (Released)

    Research Brief

    Predicting Suicide Attacks: Characteristics of Bombings in Israel

    The threat of suicide bombings in the United States and elsewhere prompted the Department of Homeland Security to develop a method for predicting the determinants of suicide bombing attacks. This brief describes an assessment of how geospatial and sociocultural characteristics may help predict the timing and targets of terrorist attacks.

    Nov 7, 2013

  • Delayed passengers stand behind a police cordon after a shooting incident at Los Angeles airport (LAX)

    Commentary

    Airport Violence—Not a New Phenomenon

    Shootings at airports are nothing new, writes Brian Michael Jenkins. In fact, they have regularly occurred worldwide in recent years. The motives have included terrorism, crime, and mental illness.

    Nov 2, 2013

  • 18th Security Forces, Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan, Kadena High School, Response Force, High-Risk Response Training, improvised explosive device

    Dissertation

    Comparing Homeland Security Risks Using a Deliberative Risk Ranking Methodology

    Managing homeland security risks involves balancing concerns about numerous types of accidents, disasters, and terrorist attacks. This research presents individuals' relative concerns about homeland security hazards and the attributes which influence those concerns.

    Oct 21, 2013

  • 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