Although it was a well known fact, the news has been made official today- Ayman al-Zawahiri has been chosen to lead the dreaded Al-Qaeda as per the posting on a jihadi website called Ansar al Islam.
The death of Osama Bin Laden had left a vaccum in the Al-Qaeda. Although they were very sound when it came to execution and operations, what they lacked was a idelogical figure to whom people could look up to. This gap will now be filled in by Zawahiri.
Zawahiri like Bin Laden will continue to focus his resources on the United States of America. However the lurking danger is that he would want to carry out something spectacular in a bid to announce his arrival.
Indian agencies point out that the Al-Qaeda has never been much of a worry for India since the ISI has always ensured that the likes of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba focus its resources on the Indian soil. However despite the Al-Qaeda not carrying out any attack on the Indian soil, the inspiration for the Indian jihadi has always been this outfit and never the Lashkar. During the recruitment process in India, videos of Al-Qaeda operations especially the 9/11 attack would be shown. During the interrogations conducted on several terrorists in India, the revealation has always been that Bin Laden is their biggest inspiration as they believe that he took on the mighty US single handedly.
Although Zawahiri has made it clear that jihad against the US would continue despite the death of Laden, Indian agencies suspect that he may try and play a role in Kashmir, the next biggest thing for jihadi factions after the US. Zawahiri may not try and stage a big attack against the US at the moment, since he is very high on their wanted list. Moreover the think tank within the Al-Qaeda would have advised him to go slow on the US at least for the time being.
Zawahiri is not new to the job and this take over cannot be considered as sudden. Although Laden was the face of the Al-Qaeda, he had taken a back seat for the past five years thanks to a falling out with Zawahiri. According to the Indian agencies, Zawahiri had side lined Laden as he felt that the latter did not have the resources to finance the group any longer. Although there was no major war of words between the two of them, Laden had been told by Zawahiri to lie low and not involve himself too much with the outfit. Laden’s health was failing and there was so much heat on him that it had become virtually impossible for him to move about. Hence it was a known fact that Zawahiri would be the next in line.
With this take over, the structure of the Al-Qaeda would appear a bit changed. Under the directions of Zawahiri, newer tie ups had been formed. The 313 brigade was given absolute control over the trainings wing of the Qaeda while the Haqqani Network was roped in for the job of operations.When one looks at these two wings, it is clear that both have a keen interest in Kashmir since their leaders started out their battle over there. This gives one the suspicion whether Zawahiri may also permit the Al-Qaeda to play a bigger part in Kashmir.
Moreover what has also been worrying the Indian agencies is that the recruitments for the Al-Qaeda have been taking place on a large scale from India and all this was with the blessings of the new leader.
The new leader although not as charismatic as Laden, does enjoy a lot of clout within the outfit. The very fact that he became their undisputed leader is a testimony for the same. However the worry for the Al-Qaeda would be whether he would be able to rope in the new faces into the outfit. He is a powerful speaker, but he will try and go the Laden way to ensure that he too is viewed as a hero like Laden was in the jihadi circles, Indian agencies also point out.