New Delhi: While the US-led coalition is yet to confirm whether Islamic State commander, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was killed or wounded in Iraq following an air strike, questions are being raised on the future of the ruthless 'Caliphate' run by him over the blood soaked sands of Iraq and Syria.
Though terror networks are known to be resilient and self-driven by an ideology with the presence or absence of a leader holds little consequence in the long run - like in the case of al Qaeda, the death of Osama bin Laden may have caused disarray for a while before the organisation bounced back under Ayaman al-Zawahiri – the death or wounding of al-Baghdadi may mean an end to the ISIL in its current form and its legitimacy in the eyes of its supporters.
The killing of al-Baghdadi holds a lot of symbolic value - without the 'Caliph', there would be no 'Caliphate' driven by his ideology. Also, a succession plan may not work out given the tight organisational structure of the ISIL where al-Baghdadi was the centre both of power and ideology.
With al-Baghdadi's deputy Musallam al-Turkmani reportedly also killed in the same air strike, other prominent Salafists like Abu Mohammad Al-Adnani may seize control of the Islamic State.
However, it remains unlikely that the top leadership of ISIL would be able to rally behind a new leader; leading to a situation where the thousands, who are fighting on al-Baghdadi's name, end up refusing the new leader.
The IS would then disintegrate into smaller groups and turn into a more potent threat to the already fractured peace in the region.
But the forces that have aided the Islamic State, supplied it with weapons and muscle may not be willing to let go of their 'strategic asset' in the war of attrition being played out in the Middle East.
Also, the fact that the Islamic State is one of the most well funded terror groups in history, may ensure that the terror behemoth remains alive and kicking.