Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), a globally-banned terror group, is now probably capable of only small-scale regional attacks, a top American counter-terrorism official told lawmakers on Thursday.
AQIS was set up by al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri in 2014 to expand the terror group’s influence in the region.
“In South Asia, al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) has struggled to rebound from the death of its leader, Asim Umar, in a US military raid in Afghanistan in September 2019 and is probably only capable of small-scale regional attacks,” Christopher Miller Director, National Counter-terrorism Center, told a Senate committee.
Testifying before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on the “Threats to the Homeland”, the top American counter-terrorism official said that in mid-March, AQIS published a special issue of Nawai Afghan Jihad praising the US-Taliban agreement, which mirrored al-Qaeda’s leaders” statements on the deal.
“Finally, al-Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan has been reduced to a few dozen fighters who are primarily focused on their survival, and are probably incapable of conducting attacks outside the country under sustained CT pressure,” Mr Miller said.
According to Mr Miller, since the Global War on Terror began nearly two decades ago, the US has significantly degraded terrorist adversaries and made the US a considerably harder target for them to reach.
“Today’s terrorism threat to the US and our allies is less acute but more diffuse — emanating from more groups in more places than it did in 2001,” he said.
While continued counter-terrorism pressure has degraded the group’s Afghanistan-Pakistan senior leadership, in the near term, al-Qaeda is more likely to focus on building its international affiliates and supporting small-scale, readily achievable attacks in key regions such as East and West Africa, said FBI Director Christopher Wray.
“Simultaneously, over the last year, propaganda from al-Qaeda leaders seeks to inspire individuals to conduct their own attacks in the US and the West. For example, the December 2019 attack at Naval Air Station Pensacola demonstrates that groups such as al-Qaeda continue to be interested in encouraging attacks on the US soil,” he said.