The public’s focus on the seemingly endless number of human-rights abuses and territorial gains of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has left al-Qaeda somewhat on the margins of the debate over the strategic objectives of the international Islamist movement.
This summer, as ISIS surged into Iraq and the conflict in Syria finally boiled over into its neighbor, Al-Qaeda was somewhat marginalized from the public-policy debate. While al-Qaeda remained an important focus for policy makers and strategists, the public appeared to have re-focused its attention on ISIS and the instability the group had cultivated throughout the past three years of war in Syria. Ayaman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaeda, appeared to wrestle with the role of the group as ISIS galvanized international support and took aim at ruling regimes in Iraq and Syria.
Reconceptualizing the group’s role in the international Islamist movement, al-Qaeda strategists have seemingly concentrated on sustaining the terrorist group’s role as the international Islamist movement’s titular and inspirational leader. Zawahiri released videos proclaiming al-Qaeda’s preeminence in the movement and widening the focus of operations to include both India and China. In this piece, I look at the objectives for an al-Qaeda affiliate focusing on India. In subsequent articles, I’ll address the widening of al-Qaeda’s strategic scope to China and other areas.
On September 3, Al-Qaeda announced the establishment of a new wing of their organization, Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), an affiliate of the international terrorist organization that would ostensibly focus jihadist operations on the Indian subcontinent. In a video released the same day, Zawahiri stated that the creation of the group was the result of planning over two years: