Liberating the Muslim nation, wrote Ayman Muhammad Rabi al-Zawahiri in Knights Under the Banner of the Prophet, a digital manifesto released by al-Qaeda on the eve on 9/11, confronting the enemies of Islam and launching a jihad against them, require a Muslim authority, established on a Muslim land, that raises the banner of jihad and rallies the Muslims around it.
The quiet, bespectacled scholar also had careful words of warning: Without achieving this goal, our actions will mean nothing more than mere, repeated disturbances.
Ever since 2011, when Osama bin Laden was killed in a United States raid on his safehouse in Abbotabad, the man who leads al-Qaeda has been trying to extricate his organisation from the rubble of 9/11.
The ferocious US response to the attacks decimated the Islamic state Zawahiri understood held the keys to power and the mantle has since been seized by a successor, the Dawlah Islamiyya, which has decimated al-Qaedas ranks in Iraq and Syria.
In the years he has led it, al-Qaeda has remained a fighting force, represented through powerful regional affiliates that have seized control of swathes of territory from Mali to Libya and Yemen but none have come close to taking control of the state.
The formation of al-Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent could prove a last throw of the dice, with domination of the global Islamist movement as its prize.
In the autumn of 1999, as al-Qaedas influence in Afghanistan reached its peak, Osama bin Laden emerged as a charismatic cult figure for Islamists across the region. That October, seven-year-old Gulrez Siddiqui was reported to have been trotted out in front of 20,000 cheering Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) supporters in Mumbai, to read this couplet: Islam ka ghazi, butshikan/ Mera sher, Osama bin Laden (Warrior for Islam, destroyer of idols/ My lion, Osama bin Laden).
The men in the audience included several who would go on to become key figures in the Indian Mujahideen (IM) among them, Riyaz Shahbandri, the groups Karachi-based military commander, and Abdul Subhan Qureshi, a key lieutenant and ideologue.
At another time, the men might have reached out to al-Qaeda but its mind was firmly focussed on a far enemy, the United States of America. Bin Laden believed destroying the US was critical to the advance of Islamism and ignored enemies who cautioned against acts that could lead the US to attack the Islamic emirate ruling Afghanistan.
Following 9/11, much