A new Rand Corporation report comprehensively surveys the ways that terrorist groups have been disbanded in the past: "Military force was rarely the primary reason a terrorist group ended." Instead, historic wars on terror have been won with policing and settlements. Rand's conclusion? To defeat Al Qaeda, we need to end the war on terror.
A recent RAND research effort sheds light on this issue by investigating how terrorist groups have ended in the past. By analyzing a comprehensive roster of terrorist groups that existed worldwide between 1968 and 2006, the authors found that most groups ended because of operations carried out by local police or intelligence agencies or because they negotiated a settlement with their governments. Military force was rarely the primary reason a terrorist group ended, and few groups within this time frame achieved victory.