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:

The formation of Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) was announced by al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri in a video released yesterday. In that statement, Zawahiri noted that AQIS “is the fruit of a blessed effort for more than two years to gather the mujahideen in the Indian subcontinent into a single entity to be with the main group, Qaedat al-Jihad, from the soldiers of the Islamic Emirate and its triumphant emir, Allah permitting, Emir of the Believers Mullah Muhammad Omar Mujahid,” according to the SITE Intelligence Group. (The Long War Journal, September 5)

An intriguing aspect of AQIS is its composition. Seemingly the result of the formation of alliances between a number of Pakistani and Central Asian terrorist organizations, AQIS is a melting pot of sorts. Again, the Long War Journal notes:

The new regional al Qaeda affiliate likely includes elements from the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, Harakat-ul-Muhajideen, Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami and Brigade 313, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, the Indian Mujahideen (a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba), the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Turkistan Islamic Party, Junood al Fida, and other groups based in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. (The Long War Journal, September 5)

The group attempted to announce its presence on the world stage on September 6, resulting in a dramatic failure. In the port city of Karachi, Pakistan, they undertook to raid a frigate in the port city of Karachi, but were repelled by Pakistani naval forces in grand fashion: