The international jihadist scene has been marked by two highly significant developments in recent weeks. In Pakistan, the armed forces launched a full-fledged operation against self-styled local and international jihadis entrenched in North Waziristan.

On the other hand, Isis, the jihadist organisation operating in Iraq and Syria made major territorial gains leading to the proclamation of the Islamic State.

The Pakistani operation is not without its fallout by way of the jihadis escaping to neighbouring Afghanistan, displacement of half a million civilians and the challenge of feeding and sheltering them. Out of nowhere, came another side effect – that of blaming General Kayani for backtracking on an operation decided as far back as 2010-2011.

Meanwhile, a great deal of hand-wringing is going on in the US primarily to blame the Obama administration for shirking from timely military assistance to the government in Baghdad, which might have forestalled the stunning advance made by the Isis.

The Americans are scurrying to map out the presence of the Sunni jihadis and advising Baghdad on possible targets. Aerial supremacy may check further advance of Isis forces led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. However, the big question is whether the government troops or the Shia militia can succeed in taking back areas now under Isis control.

Western circles are now targeting Nuri al-Maliki for not developing a national consensus in Iraq, thus alienating the Sunnis and providing Isis an opportunity to increase its influence. Even his Iranian backers have declared that while remaining supportive of al-Maliki, Tehran is ready to back any other candidate chosen by parliament in Baghdad. These adverse developments have led the Iraqi parliament to postpone its session to name a new prime minister.

Iran is deeply concerned about the danger of Iraq breaking up on ethnic and sectarian lines. On the one hand, it extends operational advice to Baghdad and help in defending Shia holy sites in Iraq and has also warned the Iraqi Kurds not to proclaim independence.

On the other hand, a senior Iranian official vowed “never to allow Israeli dream of Iraq’s disintegration come true.” He went on to blame the US for doing nothing concrete to fight terrorism, terming its behaviour in Iraq over the past three weeks as suspect, and ruled out talks with the US about Iraq.

It may be too late to put Iraq together. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – Isil, a regional outfit and former Al-Qaeda affiliate stands metamorphosed into the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and then simply into the Islamic State after it strengthened its hold over Mosul, Iraq’s second city and important chunks of territory in five provinces.

In order to substantiate its claim to global jihadi leadership, the Islamic State has also proclaimed itself as a caliphate with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as its supreme leader, calling upon Muslims everywhere to obey him. There are indications that Isis may have gone too far in announcing the caliphate and naming Al-Baghdadi as ‘Caliph Ibrahim’.

The 43-year-old Isis commander owes his fame to his role in the Sunni insurgency against the US military following the ouster of

Saddam Hussain in the 2003 invasion. His credentials were reinforced through imprisonment by the US army. The most noteworthy aspects of the Isis leader’s rise were: the expansion of operations into Syria and cutting off ties with Al-Qaeda.

In asserting his commitment to global jihad, Al-Baghdadi aims at undermining the existing global network of Al-Qaeda led by Ayman al-Zawahiri. He is now in direct competition with the Egyptian jihadi leader. But mainstream Islamic scholars have no intention of lending recognition to his farfetched claims to caliphate.

Yusef al-Qaradawi, a leader of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood residing in Qatar, has opposed the proclamation of an Islamic caliphate in areas of Iraq and Syria. He declared Al-Baghdadi’s declaration as void under the Shariah. According to him, the title of caliph can only be given by the entire Muslim nation, not by a single group. Stronger denunciations have been reported from Al-Azhar, a top authority of Sunni Islam as well as through the Saudi daily Al-Riyadh. Both accused Al-Baghdadi of heading a terrorist organisation.

In a certain way, Al-Baghdadi’s claims of caliphate and global jihad confirm the schism in the international jihadist networks carrying out terror attacks in various parts of the Muslim world. As they can no longer reach the US or its allies, initially identified as targets, their activities are concentrated in parts of the Muslim world where they have been able to establish their bases or hideouts.

Isis, at least for now, has fulfilled a major criterion of statehood by capturing and holding on to territory, something Al-Qaeda has been only hoping to achieve. The success of local jihadi forces through battles reinforces their credentials, weakening Qaeda’s hold on the global jihadi movement.

As the operation launched by Pakistan’s armed forces to eliminate local and foreign terror networks in North Waziristan progresses, the country will be finally rid of the last stronghold of Al-Qaeda and its affiliates. Henceforth, jihadi networks will be largely operating from bases in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Yemen. But their control is confined to certain areas. Holding and administering territory they have captured so far, or may capture in future, will be a full-time vocation.

Global jihad going local is not necessarily good news because Al-Qaeda, which does not hold territory, would continue to plan attacks on western targets and Muslim governments allied to the west. Nonetheless, increasingly the attention will be on Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. All three risk de-facto partitioning of their territory as local jihadi groups and the existing regimes fight it out to the bitter end.