Threat Assessment

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Researchers collaborate across disciplines at RAND to evaluate terrorist, military, nuclear, cyber, and other threats to U.S. national security — identifying emerging threats, scrutinizing known risks, and evaluating potential strategic and tactical responses. Recent studies have included examinations of al Qaeda, the Afghan insurgency, and Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

  • A soldier engages a target during a convoy live fire exercise at Novo Selo Training Area, Bulgaria, on July 7, 2017, photo by Spc. Thomas Scaggs/U.S. Army

    Report

    What Are the Trends in Armed Conflicts? What Do They Mean for U.S. Defense Policy?

    Sep 12, 2017

    Until the wars in Syria and Ukraine, armed conflict in the world had been decreasing for decades. Future projections show continued decline, but the U.S. military has an important role in deterring conflict, underpinning peacekeeping coalitions, and possibly in responding to proxy wars by other powers.

  • 20170717-north-koreas-continuous-provocations-brief

    Multimedia

    North Korea's Continuous Provocations

    Jul 17, 2017

    In this July 17th, 2017 congressional briefing, Bruce W. Bennett, Senior International/Defense Researcher, discusses North Korea's nuclear missile programs, its changing relationship with China, and implications for U.S. policy.

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  • Shi'ite Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) members hold an Islamic State flag, which they pulled down, during the war between Iraqi army and PMF against Islamic State militants in Tal Afar, Iraq, August 27, 2017

    Commentary

    Expanding the ISIS Brand

    Since its founding, the Islamic State has consistently expanded and contracted in order to achieve its objectives. To discern how ISIS might continue to expand, it makes sense to trace Al Qaeda's trajectory, which followed a similar pattern in the 2000s.

    Feb 19, 2018

  • Residents who returned from evacuation centers walk past a bullet-ridden house believed to have been rented by pro-Islamic State militant group leaders before their attack on the region, in Basak Malutlut district in Marawi City, Philippines, October 29, 2017

    Commentary

    Where Will ISIS Seek to Establish Its Next Safe Haven?

    Many of ISIS's surviving fighters will seek out new battlefields to continue waging jihad. By coordinating with its allies around the globe, the U.S. could work to help alleviate the conditions that lead states to fail, making them less appealing as sanctuaries where terrorists can rest, rearm, and recuperate.

    Feb 19, 2018

  • Flowers and pictures of victims of the Islamic State's assault on Istanbul's Reina nightclub are placed near its entrance in Istanbul, Turkey, January 17, 2017

    Commentary

    Erdogan's Fatal Blind Spot

    Erdogan's tolerance of ISIS fighters in Turkey amounts to tacit approval. The danger posed by ISIS using Turkey as a staging ground could become more formidable than the threat currently posed by Kurdish terrorism. Tolerating ISIS to fight the Kurds is therefore a dangerous and myopic policy.

    Feb 16, 2018

  • Autonomous vehicles on a highway

    Commentary

    Ensuring Cybersecurity Is Vital for a Driverless Future

    High-profile accidents involving autonomous vehicles (AVs) have led to recent discussions about the physical safety of people. However, it could be argued that consumers and manufacturers should be equally, if not more, concerned about the potential cybersecurity vulnerabilities in AVs.

    Feb 12, 2018

  • Lithuanian, Latvian, and Estonian soldiers stand in formation for the closing ceremony of exercise Silver Arrow in Adazi, Latvia, October 31, 2016

    Report

    Assessing the Imbalance of Military Power in Europe

    Since 2008 Russia has been expanding and refining its readiness for conventional warfare. These improvements have reduced the qualitative and technological gaps between Russia and NATO. What do recent trends imply for the balance of capabilities in NATO member states in the Baltic Sea region?

    Feb 5, 2018

  • Multimedia

    Assessing North Korea's Chemical and Biological Weapons Capabilities and Prioritizing Countermeasures

    International policy analyst John V. Parachini outlines what is known about North Korea's chemical and biological weapons capabilities—and what can be done to mitigate the threats.

    Jan 17, 2018

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (right) speaks to Choe Ryong-hae, director of the General Political Bureau of the Korean People's Army, Pyongyang, July 27, 2013

    Testimony

    North Korea's Chemical and Biological Weapons Capabilities—and How to Counter Them

    Any conflict on the Korean Peninsula could entail the use of chemical or biological weapons. For this reason, it's important to ensure the attention given to North Korea's nuclear weapons doesn't cause authorities to overlook these threats.

    Jan 17, 2018

  • Government agents tracking cybercrime

    Commentary

    How the Pentagon Should Deter Cyber Attacks

    Foreign hackers are not afraid to launch attacks on the United States in cyberspace that they would not dare risk in a real theater of war. As cyber aggression gets worse and more brazen, the U.S. must figure out how to deter foreign actors in cyberspace as effectively as it does in nuclear and conventional warfare.

    Jan 10, 2018

  • Forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad stand in the al-Khafsa area on the western bank of the Euphrates River, Syria, March 9, 2017

    Commentary

    Where Is Assad Getting His Fighters from?

    The Assad regime's defense against insurgents in Syria's ongoing civil war is being provided by forces imported from Afghanistan and Pakistan as well as Lebanon and Iraq. Most of these fighters are being trained and equipped by Iran. Could this network of foreign fighters help Iran establish a greater presence beyond the Middle East?

    Jan 4, 2018

  • The new Smart concept autonomous car Vision EQ fortwo model is presented during the Frankfurt Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt, Germany, September 12, 2017

    Commentary

    Autonomous Vehicles: Terrorist Threat or Security Opportunity?

    Terrorist groups that track developments in technology could be considering using self-driving cars in place of suicide bombers or for ramming attacks. But autonomous vehicle capabilities offer a range of potential benefits to law enforcement and security operations, too.

    Jan 3, 2018

  • First responders work at a crime scene in lower Manhattan, where a Home Depot truck was used to strike people on a bike path, New York City, October 31, 2017

    Commentary

    Navigating the Latest Terrorism Trend

    Terrorists are increasingly using vehicles as attack weapons, killing more than 150 people in the last 18 months. If this trend continues, the urban landscape will change as bollards, barricades and barriers, chicanes and checkpoints surround and subdivide public spaces. But do they make us safer?

    Dec 19, 2017

  • A flag of Islamic State militants is pictured above a destroyed house near the Clock Square in Raqqa, Syria, October 18, 2017

    Commentary

    ISIS Could Rise Again

    ISIS has a tried-and-true playbook for bringing itself back from near death. Just a few years ago, it managed to resurrect itself after apparent defeat. And the history of that resurrection should serve as a warning of what may be coming now.

    Dec 15, 2017

  • An MQ-9 Reaper flies a combat mission over southern Afghanistan

    Commentary

    Terrorism Before and During the War on Terror: A Look at the Numbers

    While terror-related headlines tend to imply the worst, the truth is much more prosaic. Terrorism since 9/11 is down—and dramatically so—in countries not suffering from civil wars and insurgencies.

    Dec 12, 2017

  • Journal Article

    The Implications of Iran's Expanding Shi'a Foreign Fighter Network

    Well-trained and resourced, Iranian-directed Shi'a foreign fighters pose a significant potential threat to U.S. interests. The more robust this network grows, the more opportunities it will have to expand abroad.

    Dec 7, 2017

  • A law enforcement bomb technician walks away after preparing the controlled detonation of a suspicious object during a search for a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing, in Watertown, Massachusetts, April 19, 2013

    Commentary

    The Origins of America's Jihadists

    American jihadists are made in the United States, not imported. Homegrown terrorists have accounted for most of the jihadist activity in the U.S. since 9/11, with most of those who carried out or plotted terrorist attacks either born in the U.S. or arriving as children.

    Dec 4, 2017

  • Militant Islamist fighters waving flags, travel in vehicles as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province June 30, 2014

    Commentary

    All for One and One for All: Toward a Coordinated EU Approach on Returnees

    To combat the threat posed by returning fighters, EU intelligence and police agencies will need to coordinate to find potential terrorists before they are able to conduct attacks in Europe. The return of dangerous foreign fighters to European soil should be motivation enough for an overarching review of each country’s vulnerabilities.

    Nov 28, 2017

  • Protective barriers are placed along a bike path near a memorial for the victims of the October 31 attack in New York City, November 3, 2017

    Commentary

    America Is Great at Fighting Terrorism, but Terror Is Alive and Well

    When terrorists adopt a strategy of pure terror, it's hard to prevent attacks like those in Nice, Columbus, London, Barcelona, or New York. Instead, strategies are needed to counter terrorism's ultimate aim—to instill fear—and to remove some of the incentives of potential attackers.

    Nov 16, 2017

  • Syrian Democratic Forces fighters ride atop of military vehicle as they celebrate victory in Raqqa, Syria, October 17, 2017

    Commentary

    Why the Fall of the 'Caliphate' in Syria Will Not Ease Western Security Concerns

    A Syria and Iraq free of ISIS do not, unfortunately, free the West from the ISIS threat. Instead, ISIS is likely to either disperse, with its followers prepared to carry out a range of further attacks, or attempt to regroup in the fragile states of Africa.

    Nov 3, 2017

  • Police investigate a pickup truck used in an attack on the West Side Highway in lower Manhattan in New York City, November 1, 2017

    Commentary

    New York Terror Attack: Can Vehicle Attacks Be Prevented?

    The recent vehicle attack in Manhattan was the deadliest terror attack on New York since 9/11. Preventing every attack is unrealistic, but with increased vigilance, cooperation with law enforcement, and intelligence sharing, citizens can help mitigate the threat of terrorism.

    Nov 1, 2017

  • Police look toward the scene of a pickup truck attack on West Side Highway in Manhattan, New York, U.S., October 31 2017

    Commentary

    Terrorism Fatigue

    By continually staking claim to big and small terrorist attacks, regardless of target selection or casualty count, ISIS has attempted to instill a sense of omnipresent and unpredictable danger. And in the process, terrorism fatigue may be setting in around the world.

    Nov 1, 2017