The Islamic State (Terrorist Organization)

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ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), also known as ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), is a Sunni jihadist group with a particularly violent ideology that calls itself a caliphate and claims religious authority over all Muslims. It was inspired by al Qaida but later publicly expelled from it. RAND terrorism experts have analyzed the group's financing, management, and organization; its savvy use of social media for recruitment and fundraising; and the instability that spawned the group as a regional problem in the Middle East.

  • Syrian refugees cross into Jordanian territory, near the town of Ruwaished, 149 miles east of Amman, December 5, 2013, photo by Muhammad Hamed/Reuters

    Report

    Stabilizing Eastern Syria After ISIS

    Sep 8, 2020

    Eastern Syrian communities are no longer occupied by ISIS but they are in a fraught political environment where the Syrian Democratic Forces and the Syrian government have both expanded their presence and some ISIS fighters remain. What are the region's most urgent needs and is there a viable strategy to build near-term stability?

  • Two Air Force F-22 Raptors fly over Syria, February 2, 2018, while supporting Operation Inherent Resolve, photo by Staff Sgt. Colton Elliott/Air National Guard

    Report

    Airpower Was Indispensable to Defeating ISIS

    Feb 5, 2021

    Some argue that airpower could have been applied more vigorously in Operation Inherent Resolve to have more quickly defeated ISIS. Airpower was essential, but ground forces led by Iraqi and Syrian partners were needed to destroy the Islamic State as a territorial entity.

Explore The Islamic State (Terrorist Organization)

  • A collage of the COVID-19 virus, armed terror groups, and a biological response team

    Report

    Implications of the Pandemic for Terrorist Interest in Biological Weapons

    Some policymakers and analysts have expressed concern that weaknesses in responses to the COVID-19 pandemic will motivate terrorists to seek biological weapons. While the prospect of the Islamic State and al-Qaeda pursuing biological weapons is not zero, it is unlikely, given the difficulties involved and the availability of simpler alternatives.

    May 31, 2022

  • Report

    Report

    Road to Damascus: The Russian Air Campaign in Syria, 2015 to 2018

    The authors review the chronology of Russian air operations in Syria, and assess the strategic and operational blueprint, basing strategy and force disposition, effectiveness of the Russian air campaign, and its applicability to future campaigns.

    May 11, 2022

  • News Release

    News Release

    Efforts to Avoid Civilian Casualties in Raqqa, Syria, in 2017 Were Considerable but Insufficient

    U.S. strategic choices in the battle to liberate Raqqa, Syria, from ISIS in 2017 likely increased civilian harm despite considerable efforts to avoid civilian casualties by both U.S. and coalition forces.

    Mar 31, 2022

  • The destruction on Al-Qouatli street in Raqqa, Syria, photo by Abood Hamam

    Report

    Efforts to Avoid Civilian Casualties in Raqqa Were Considerable but Insufficient

    The 2017 battle to liberate Raqqa, Syria, from ISIS is a cautionary tale in 21st-century conflicts. U.S. strategic choices likely increased civilian harm despite considerable efforts to avoid civilian casualties by both U.S. and coalition forces. What lessons can be applied to future operations?

    Mar 31, 2022

  • Journal Article

    Journal Article

    Scenarios of Transnational Islamist Terrorism. Trends and Developments: A Fact-Based Threat Assessment

    Some scholars have speculated that the current religious wave of terrorism, epitomized by the global jihadist movement, might finally be starting to ebb. But the movement could very well roar back to life.

    Feb 25, 2022

  • Violent Extremism in America: Can it be Stopped?

    Multimedia

    Violent Extremism in America: Can It Be Stopped?

    Co-authors of the RAND report, Violent Extremism in America, discuss the findings from their interviews with former members of radical organizations.

    Jul 7, 2021

  • Protesters gather during the Indiana Stop Asian Hate Rally on Monument Circle in Indianapolis, Indiana, March 27, 2021, photo by USA Today Network via Reuters

    Research Brief

    What Former Extremists and Their Families Say About Radicalization in America

    Violent extremism is an evolving, ongoing threat in the United States. Interviews with former extremists—and their families and friends—offer insights into how individuals become radicalized, how they leave extremist groups, and what communities can do to stop the growth of extremism in their area.

    Jun 25, 2021

  • News Release

    News Release

    Interviews with Former Extremists Reveal Multiple Paths to Developing Extreme Ideologies; Rejection of Extremism Often ...

    People who radicalize to extremist ideologies often are triggered by negative life events or exposure to propaganda, and those who escape from extreme groups frequently are aided by an individual or group that intervenes to help them reject the philosophy.

    Apr 2, 2021

  • Light catches the security fence around the U.S. Capitol, erected in the wake of the January 6th attack but now scheduled to be removed, in Washington, D.C., March 15, 2021, photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    Report

    Violent Extremism in America: Firsthand Accounts

    The January 6 attack at the U.S. Capitol emphasized the need for more research to inform violent extremism prevention and deradicalization strategies. Interviews with former extremists and their family members shed light on what leads people to join—and later leave—extremist groups.

    Apr 1, 2021

  • F-16 Fighting Falcons in formation with two Royal Saudi Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles, after receiving fuel from a KC-135R Stratotanker

    Research Brief

    The Role of U.S. Airpower in Defeating ISIS

    The United States used airpower in Syria and Iraq to halt ISIS's momentum and help defeat the organization, without committing a large number of ground forces.

    Feb 12, 2021

  • News Release

    News Release

    Interest in a U.S. Grand Strategy of Restraint May Be Growing, So Advocates Need to Provide More Details

    As the Biden Administration takes over, some U.S. policymakers have expressed interest in a new approach to America's role in the world: a realist grand strategy of restraint under which the U.S. would cooperate more with other powers, reduce its forward military presence and end or renegotiate some security commitments.

    Jan 22, 2021

  • A world map puzzle with a piece on top, photo by Yuriy Panyukov/Adobe Stock

    Report

    A U.S. Grand Strategy of Restraint

    Some U.S. policymakers have expressed interest in a realist grand strategy of restraint. Under this approach, the United States would cooperate more with other powers, reduce its forward military presence, and end or renegotiate some security commitments. What are the policy implications of embarking down this path?

    Jan 21, 2021

  • Female hand touching screen of the phone surrounded with social media notification icons, photo by nikolas_stock/AdobeStock

    Journal Article

    Social Media and Influence Operations Technologies: Implications for Great Power Competition

    Russia, China, and the so-called Islamic State are three key U.S. adversaries that have exploited online technologies for propaganda. This chapter reviews the aims, capabilities, and limitations of online propaganda for each of these entities.

    Oct 23, 2020

  • Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. envoy for peace in Afghanistan, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani and Mutlaq Al-Qahtani, special envoy of the foreign minister of Qatar are seen during talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, September 12, 2020, photo by Ibraheem al Omari/Reuters

    Commentary

    The Islamic State in Afghanistan Is Down, but Not Out

    The Afghan Taliban is on the verge of entering into a power-sharing agreement with the Afghan government in a peace deal facilitated by the United States. Washington seems to be holding out hope that the deal will stabilize the country. But the Islamic State Khorasan Province remains a concern. The Islamic State in Afghanistan may be down, but it's not out.

    Sep 14, 2020

  • Mozambique's President Filipe Nyusi is saluted as he is sworn-in for a second term in Maputo, Mozambique, January 15, 2020, photo by Grant Neuenburg/Reuters

    Commentary

    Repression in Mozambique Is Stoking an Islamist Insurgency, Risking Wider Unrest

    While Southern Africa has largely remained immune from violent extremism, the situation in northern Mozambique threatens to destabilize the country and could potentially spread to other parts of the region. To effectively counter the growing threat, the government could devise a less heavy handed approach.

    Jun 5, 2020

  • U.S. soldiers load onto a CH-47 Chinook helicopter as they leave Al Qaim Base, Iraq, March 9, 2020, photo by Spc. Andrew Garcia/U.S. Army

    Report

    Weighing U.S. Troop Withdrawal from Iraq

    Supporting a stable and friendly Iraq is in the long-term interest of the United States. This does not require continuing the combat assistance mission, but would mean maintaining a small force of military advisers to help train and develop Iraqi capabilities so that Iraq could defend itself.

    May 19, 2020

  • U.S. Army soldiers deployed in support of Combined Joint Task Force–Operation Inherent Resolve await aerial extraction via CH-47 Chinook during a training exercise in Iraq, October 31, 2018, photo by 1st Lt. Leland White/U.S. Army National Guard

    Report

    It's Time to Make a Full and Enduring Commitment to Iraq

    American interests will suffer if strategic competition in Iraq is abandoned. U.S. policymakers should pursue a commitment to Iraq before opportunities are lost. The best way to establish that commitment is through robust, long-term, small-footprint assistance to the Iraqi Army.

    Apr 14, 2020

  • Following the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, members of Iraq's parliament voted to expel American soldiers from Iraq, January 5, 2020, photo by Iraqi Parliament Media Office/Handout via Reuters

    Commentary

    Iraq's Vote to Expel U.S. Troops Is Iran's True Victory

    If American soldiers are ejected from Iraq, the consequences may be far-reaching and damaging to U.S. strategic interests. What options remain to reset the relationship between Washington and Baghdad?

    Jan 6, 2020