On 4 September 2014, Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri pledged his loyalty to Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar and announced the formation of an Indian wing of the militant group. Sameer Patil, associate national security fellow at Gateway House, comments on this recent development.
“This is not Al-Qaeda’s first attempt to open a branch in South Asia. Under senior operative Ilyas Kashmiri, the militant group had previously attempted to consolidate South Asia operations, specifically to launch terrorist attacks on India. The attempts failed when Kashmiri was killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2011.
This renewed attempt by Al-Qaeda is possibly a means to assert its position after the dramatic rise of the Islamic State. Publicity and propaganda are its principal operational tools, and it is likely that they are endeavoring to catch up with IS’ extensive media coverage. It is also likely that Amir Ayman al-Zawahiri felt that IS’ Amir Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was trying to repudiate Osama bin Laden’s charisma and legacy of global jihad in order to attract a significant number of new recruits. Zawahiri himself has not been as charismatic as bin Laden, or even Baghdadi, who has taken the center-stage.
The announcement also highlights the fact that its base remains in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. Their focus is decidedly on launching terrorist attacks, not so much governing territories as the IS is doing. The Al-Qaeda is a bigger threat to India’s interests than the IS – on the mainland and in Afghanistan – due to its linkages with Lashkar-e-Tayyaba Jaish-e-Mohammad and the Afghan Taliban, with which it renewed its allegiance in the current video.”
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