A senior defense official revealed Thursday that the U.S.-led air coalition against ISIS has incinerated an estimated $500 million worth of the terror group's slush fund, seriously hampering the group's ability to pay existing fighters and attract new ones.
The official who asked not to be named in a USA Today report said the coalition has been targeting ISIS's large stores of cash, held mostly in U.S. dollars in warehouses and distribution sights for about 15 months now. He said the coalition estimated they may have destroyed up to $1.3 billion but felt $500 million was the most plausible estimate. The coalition has also managed to slash oil revenues of ISIS by an estimated 50 percent.
ISIS, according to the report, has been forced to ration fuel and cut pay in half for fighters and government officials in regions that the group still controls.
Combined with the work of local ground forces in both Iraq and Syria, U.S. officials say the air campaign by the coalition has significantly weakened ISIS, which has lost 40 percent of the territory they once controlled in Iraq.
Speaking to reporters at Al-Dhafra Air Base near Abu Dhabi this week, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said the U.S. may consider shifting the nature of its military campaign against ISIS fighters as intelligence improves on the ground.
"As we've learned more and are more on top of the enemy, you can do more dynamic targeting," Carter said according to the AP.
The U.S. official told USA Today that ISIS fighters are now being killed at a rate of 1,500 to 2,000 a month and foreign fighters entering Iraq and Syria to replace them are only covering about 25 percent of the lost numbers each week.
To make up for its depleted ranks, ISIS is now conscripting men, boys and even government officials who are less experienced fighters in areas they control. ISIS leaders also reportedly met in Raqqa to overhaul much of their military hierarchy. Some combat leaders were fired while others were executed in places like eastern Syria, where ISIS has suffered recent defeats at the hands of U.S.-backed opposition forces.
The official warned however that even though ISIS is getting weaker, the militant group remains a very real threat and analysts agree.
"ISIS is getting weaker, but that doesn't mean their demise is around the corner," Stephen Biddle, a professor at George Washington University and an analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations, told USA Today.
According to Reuters, Iraq's finance minister said last year that ISIS militants had looted nearly half a billion dollars from banks in Mosul and the northern cities of Tikrit and Baiji after they made their way across the Syrian border in 2014.
On January 11, a military spokesman said a U.S. aircraft had bombed an Islamic State cash distribution site which was distributing money to fund "terrorist" activities.
CNN, citing unnamed U.S. defense officials, said the building was destroyed by two 2,000-pound bombs. The officials could not say exactly how much money was at the site or in what currency, but one described it as "millions" at the time.