The report, "How Terrorist Groups End: Lessons for Countering al-Qaida," finds the U.S. strategy against the group has not had a significant impact on its capabilities to carry out further attacks.
Al-Qaida has coordinated more attacks since the attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, than in its entire history prior to that event. Al-Qaida also has expanded its operational range from Central Asia to the Middle East and Africa, Europe and Asia, the report says.
The RAND report found most terrorist groups abandoned militant activity by merging into the political process or because local law enforcement officials captured or killed key terrorist leaders.
Of the 648 terrorist groups examined from 1968 to 2006, 43 percent of the groups merged into the political process. Local policing and intelligence efforts ended 40 percent of the groups, and just 7 percent of the cases examined were ended by military force.
"The United States cannot conduct an effective long-term counter-terrorism campaign against al-Qaida or other terrorist groups without understanding how terrorist groups end," said lead author Seth Jones. "In most cases, military force isn't the best instrument."
The RAND study suggests U.S. officials rely more on policing efforts to thwart terrorist activity and abandon the use of the term "war on terror" to describe its counter-terrorism strategy.
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