The Heads of an Islamic Hydra Rise in South Asia

Their malicious plot to destroy the West is far from over.

The so-called peace deal between the U.S. and Afghanistan never addressed an important fact: the powers-that-be ignored all the players in the game, somehow missing an endless supply of terrorists who are all heads connected to the same body.

In a post 9/11 interview, Osama bin Laden told Al-Jazeera television correspondent Tayseer Alouni that “all the Muslims are brothers.” Following this statement, he explained that a training camp established by Abu Ebeida El-Banashiri for mujahideen fighting against the former Soviet Union became known as al-Qaeda (the base). As far back as the late 1980s, these “sons of the nation” were considered “brothers in Islam from the Middle East, Philippines, Malaysia, India, Pakistan and as far as Mauritania,” he revealed. And it is this aged, subtle point which remains quite relevant — and often-overlooked — today.

The version of al-Qaeda dating back to the Soviet-Afghan War era is not the same al-Qaeda of today, as many have failed to recognize. In February 1998, the transnational Salafist organization was reformed at the World Islamic Front (WIF) by five prominent Islamic leaders: Osama bin Laden; Ayman al-Zawahiri, emir of the Jihad Group in Egypt; Ahmed Refai Taha of the Egyptian Islamic Group; Mir Hamzah, secretary of the Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e-Pakistan; and Fazlur Rahman, emir of the Jihad Movement in Bangladesh.

The WIF was comprised of at least 14 international pro-jihad organizations, including Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines, Chechen Jihad Group, the Islamic Jihad Group (Egypt), the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Lashkar-e-Taiba, North Caucasian Jihad Group, the Turkistan Islamic Movement, the 055 Brigade (the Shadow Army), Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (Afghanistan), Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (Pakistan), Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (Afghanistan), Sipah-e-Sahaba (Pakistan), Uyghur Jihad Groups (Western China), and the Taliban.

To this day, according to the U.S. State Department’s Country Reports on Terrorism 2019, Pakistan is a “safe haven” for many “regionally focused terrorist groups.” These include, but are not limited to, the Taliban, al-Qaeda, Harakat ul-Jihad-i-Islami, Harakat-ul-Mujahideen, Hizbul Mujahideen, Jaish-e-Mohommad, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi.

The majority of WIF founders and the organizations above have something uniquely in common. Apart from Osama bin Laden and his successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the other three founders subscribed to the Asian branch of Islam. They are Deobandi. Furthermore, the latter seven of the 14 WIF organizations and at least half of the organizations operating safely out of Pakistan, today, also have something uniquely in common. They, too, are Deobandi.

The U.S. would be wise to make note of these ideological ties as it keeps a watchful eye on the future of Afghanistan amid the withdrawal of troops. The Taliban has a near-endless supply of Deobandi jihadists (including suicide bombers) coming from the east to join the effort to overthrow the Afghan government. Al-Qaeda and many others will continue to assist the effort to reestablish the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Practicing the original form of Islam through a strict implementation of sharia is their desire.

Not recognizing these facts has had and will continue to have grave consequences. U.S. efforts to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table for peace in Afghanistan was an outright failure in foreign policy. The Deobandi influence to providing a near-endless supply of fighters to the region appears to have gone unnoticed. And without calling upon the Taliban to publicly denounce ties and visibly separate itself from the likes of al-Qaeda and their affiliates, for example, the plan for bringing peace to Afghanistan was doomed from the start.

Dozens of heads connected to the same body of an Islamic hydra have been operating in Afghanistan with the support of Pakistan for decades. “Brothers in Islam from the Middle East, Philippines, Malaysia, India, Pakistan and as far as Mauritania” will continue to be a substantial threat to the world — and their vicious plot to destroy the West is far from over. Osama bin Laden was only the beginning of a persistent global threat, which will continue to rear its ugly head out of South Asia. Heed this warning, America – be careful dealing with this powerful global Ummah who are, indeed, brothers in Islam. They will return to haunt future administrations soon enough.

Terry Bishop’s writings and interests focus on the strategic influence of terrorism and subversion, counter-terrorism and national security. His research includes armed conflict and violence in South Asia with a  focus on al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQS), the Taliban, and other Deobandi-linked terror groups. His writings have been published by American Thinker, Defence & Security Alert, and Indian Defence Review.