Has the al Qaeda left Afghanistan? Is there an al Qaeda even present in Afghanistan? Was the announcement relating to the presence of the al Qaeda in the Sub-Continent just a hoax?
These are extremely pertinent questions and would matter a great deal to India in particular as the war in Afghanistan directly affects us. [See how close the ISIS is to India today]
In the month of September 2014 a video with a message from the al Qaeda chief Ayman Al-Zawahiri announced the commencement of operations in the sub-continent under the banner of al Qaeda in the sub-continent. [Danger from ISIS and Al Qaeda; What India should do]
Today increasingly it appears that the AQIS was just a hoax and announced with an intention of keeping people guessing and also trying to tell the ISIS that it would not have a cake walk in Afghanistan. [ISIS in Afghanistan: The battle gets bloodier]
The Taliban makes this interesting claim
It is a well known fact that the Taliban in Afghanistan always partnered with the al Qaeda. Both these outfits worked in tandem and had a common goal and that was the destruction of America. Dr Mohammad Nadeem is the Taliban's official spokesperson. He clearly states none are aware of where Zawahiri is. [New ISIS chief in Afghanistan: A profile]
Dr Nadeem also goes on to state that there is not a single al Qaeda fighter left in Afghanistan. Most of them have gone back to their respective homes while some have joined the battle in Yemen, Syria and Iraq.
Dr Nadeem however confirms that Mullah Omar the supreme commander of the Taliban is very much alive. He keeps meeting his aides and warriors and is motivating them to fight. [Does Mullah Omar matter any longer?]
Is this a diversionary tactic?
Indian Intelligence Bureau officials say that the al Qaeda was long dead in Afghanistan. The decision to commence the sub-continent operations was just another way of testing the waters to see if they could get recruits.
However in reality the AQIS never really took off and it was a flop even before it began. There was a movement towards the ISIS headed Al-Khorasan group that functions in Afghanistan today. If one looks at Afghanistan closely there really is no al Qaeda present.
However the IB official also adds that one cannot totally write them off. This could be a move to stay low for a while and then bounce back. The real picture will emerge only after a couple of months, when the war in Yemen which the al Qaeda is so busy fighting will subside.
Al Qaeda cannot match the ISIS
The al Qaeda which has been beaten down by the ISIS in Syria and Iraq found it hard to match them in Afghanistan too. The recent entry by the ISIS has proved to be a success for them and there are several groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan which has lent support to them. ['No inputs to suggest al Qaeda, ISIS planning to target India']
The al Qaeda did try to rake up several issues concerning India and Bangladesh, but none really had any sort of impact on the people. The vast Muslim population in these countries refused to bite the al Qaeda bait and refrained from joining them. ['Al Qaeda plans to carry many 26/11 type terror attacks in India']
Moreover the chief of the al Qaeda in the sub-continent Asim Umar too proved to be a failure. He was more renowned as a cleric and could not handle the operations part of the group.
The fighters also did not find the leadership skills of Zawahiri impressive and he today is busy fighting a survival battle in some corner of the globe.