Al Qaeda on the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) chief Asim Umar was killed in an air strike in Afghanistan that was announced this week, shining the light on the Islamic terror group’s rapid expansion across the region.
An expert in the field, journalist and counter-terrorism scholar J.M. Phelps, told The Liberty Sentinel that the death highlights what he described as the international “Islamic hydra” that has taken root in Afghanistan.
It was not clear whether Umar was the target of the September 23 strike just announced this week, or whether he was “collateral damage” in an attack on the Taliban compound.
But the implications are huge either way.
Umar once studied at the Darul-Uloom Deoband madrassa, “which should provide even more incentive for America and the West to keep their eyes focused on the global Deoband movement, and on the trans-national coalition known today as AQIS,” said Phelps.
While the United Nations and various governments have argued for more controls over the Internet to deal with extremism, Umar reportedly left no “digital footprint” whatsoever, according to reports.
Shortly before Umar’s death, Phelps highlighted what he described as a very dangerous coalition that continues to emerge virtually unnoticed from the Indian subcontinent.
The future of terrorism in Afghanistan, he warned, centers around the emerging coalition.
“It’s important to grasp an overlooked concept here,” said Phelps, who received a certification through the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya, Israel. “The group that we call Al Qaeda never actually called themselves Al Qaeda. They called themselves the World Islamic Front.”
“Somehow, countless numbers of experts in the field have failed to realize the group was actually a coalition,” he continued. “It wasn’t founded by a sole person by the name of Osama bin Laden. Five people were the original founders of this organization. Not one, but five.”
Consider that bin Laden’s mentor and successor, Ayman al Zawahiri, described as the “mastermind behind 9/11,” was also a part of this front.
Interestingly, according to Russian defector Alexander Litvinenko, Zawahiri was actually trained by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB, former KGB) in the late 1990s at an FSB base in Dagestan.
“Along with these five individuals who pledged a coalition, there were 14 original founding organizations that were also part of the original group we now know of as Al Qaeda,” continued Phelps, who writes on terrorism and national security for OneNewsNow.com “Half of these organizations — seven of the 14 — were Deobandi branch organizations from places like Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and as far East as India and the Philippines.”
The Deobandis are Salafists, “which means they practice an original form of Islam,” Phelps said.
“They are pro-jihad and their goal is to implement Sharia law,” he added, noting that the Taliban also fall under that Deobandi banner.
“When a jihadist makes his way over to Afghanistan to join Al Qaeda or to join ISIS, who are they fighting alongside of? The Taliban!” Phelps exclaimed. “Thus, the future of terrorism in Afghanistan looks like a bunch of terrorists coming to the country to fight alongside the Taliban.”
The Taliban may claim they are not allowing Al Qaeda or ISIS to operate in Afghanistan. But policymakers and counter-terrorism experts are missing a gravely important point.
“You can call it a fatal flaw,” said Phelps. “There has been a coalition of organizations operating in the region for almost 20 years. It’s not just Arabic-speaking fighters from Iraq and Syria.”
“Here’s the blind spot — half of the entire coalition operating in the region are Deobandis from the East,” explained Phelps, calling peace talks between the Taliban and the U.S. government “short-sighted” at best. “And as a result, terrorists will continue to flood the region and spread terror throughout.”
“And if that wasn’t enough, a newer coalition continues to operate without drawing much attention,” he continued.
The coalition — known as Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, or AQIS — is virtually “flying under the radar.” And that is despite it being the largest coalition that has existed in modern times.
“In recent weeks, its ugly head was reared in Afghanistan, as the country’s Ministry of Defense confirmed the Taliban is supplying AQIS with explosives for attacks in major Afghan cities,” said Phelps.
Phelps argued that if and when the U.S.-led military coalition occupying Afghanistan withdraws, there will be “an immediate uptick in violence not only Afghanistan, but also in places like Kashmir, India, and the entire Indian subcontinent.”
To deal with the threat, the U.S. government and the West must first acknowledge the enormous scope of the problem.
“We’re failing to do that — and we’re failing miserably,” said Phelps.
And as “peace talks” proceed, a flood of jihadists and terrorists will flood in from the east — places like Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Myanmar, and even Sri Lanka, which recently drew global attention for the Islamic massacres of Christians on Resurrection Sunday.
“Until we acknowledge there is a blind spot, it’s going to be tough to win a war on terror, especially when there appears to be an endless supply of jihadists coming from surrounding regions who are more than willing to join the fight,” Phelps concluded.