The announcement by al-Qaeda that it has formed a branch for operating in India is not an indication of the terrorist outfit gaining new capabilities, the US on Friday said, asserting that it is committed to dismantling the group.
“We do not regard the announcement as an indication of new capabilities by al-Qaeda, which has long been active throughout the region,” Caitlin Hayden, spokesperson of the National Security Council at the White House, said.
“We have seen the reports of al-Qaeda’s new branch on the Indian subcontinent. The US remains committed to dismantling al-Qaeda and ensuring that it never again poses a threat to the American people,” she said in response to a question.
The US, she said, has robust counterterrorism partnerships in the region to combat al-Qaeda’s destabilising influence, to deny it safe haven, to counter violent extremism, and to build resilience against terrorist groups.
After the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, co-operation between the US and India on counter-terrorism issues has increased significantly.
“We have seriously degraded al-Qaeda in the region, and will continue our efforts against the group and affiliates that pose a threat to the American people,” Hayden said.
The creation of the group called “Qaedat al-Jihad in the Indian Subcontinent” was announced by As Sahab, al-Qaeda’s official media outlet, in a lengthy video posted on social media sites including YouTube.
Al-Qaeda is active in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but the group’s leader Ayman al Zawahiri said ‘Qaedat al-Jihad’ would take the fight to India, Myanmar and Bangladesh.
US officials said the core of al-Qaeda has been decimated.
“When we talk about core al-Qaeda, it’s al-Qaeda’s senior leadership in the tribal areas primarily of Pakistan, also some in Afghanistan, and that core leadership has been decimated. That’s a fact,” State Department Deputy spokesperson Marie Harf said.
“The core of al-Qaeda’s leadership except for Zawahiri, of the senior leadership in al-Qaeda in Pakistan has been taken off the battlefield,” she said.
“We’ve constantly at the same time said we’re concerned if they try to undertake operations in other places, if they as we know have affiliated groups in other places. So we’re concerned about it. Again, we don’t regard this announcement as an indication of any new capabilities by al-Qaeda,” she said.