A military convoy of U.S. forces making its way through Erbil, Iraq. Photo: Yunus Keles/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Monday during a trip to Afghanistan that the Pentagon is deliberating whether to station a “residual force” of U.S. soldiers in cities in eastern Syria to defend oil fields.

Why it matters: Stationing the residual force in a Syrian city would attach a major caveat to President Trump's pledge to stop U.S. involvement in “endless wars” in the Middle East.

What they're saying: Esper said the purpose of the force would be to "deny access, specifically revenue to ISIS and any other groups that might want to seek that revenue to enable their own malign activities."

  • However, the defense secretary said the proposal has not been presented to Trump.
  • Esper made the announcement as U.S. soldiers were arriving in eastern Iraq after withdrawing from northeastern Syria, where the Turkish military staged an offensive against Kurdish fighters earlier this month.
  • A U.S. official told the Washington Post that around 200 soldiers could secure the oil fields indefinitely.

Of note: In a tweet on Sunday, Trump quoted Esper on Syria, saying "U.S. soldiers are not in combat or ceasefire zone. We have secured the Oil." It's unknown when Esper said this.

The big picture: In addition to deterring the Islamic State, the force would also prevent Syria’s Russian- and Iranian-backed government, which is slowly recovering the territory it lost during the civil war, from reaping profits from the oil fields, a U.S. official told the Post.

Go deeper: State Department circulates talking points contradicting Trump on Syria

Go deeper

Updated 3 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Pelosi says Mnuchin told her White House is "not budging" on stimulus position

Democrats and the Trump administration remain "miles apart" on negotiations over a coronavirus stimulus deal, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said on Wednesday.

The latest: Around 3 p.m., Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) issued a statement saying that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had initiated a phone call and made clear that the White House is "not budging from their position concerning the size and scope of a legislative package."

New Jersey governor allows schools to reopen for in-person learning

Gov. Phil Murphy in December 2019. Phoot: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) announced Wednesday he will sign an executive order allowing private and public K-12 schools and universities to reopen for in-person learning in September.

The big picture: New York and New Jersey have now authorized school districts to begin reopening. Both states and Connecticut ordered travelers from 31 states to quarantine before crossing their state borders after they were able to manage the pandemic.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 1:30 p.m. ET: 20,412,501 — Total deaths: 744,649— Total recoveries: 12,629,465Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 1:30 p.m. ET: 5,163,509 — Total deaths: 164,994 — Total recoveries: 1,714,960 — Total tests: 63,252,257Map.
  3. Politics: Pelosi on state of coronavirus stimulus talks: "It's a chasm"
  4. Business: U.S. already feeling effects of ending unemployment benefits.
  5. Public health: America is flying blind on its coronavirus response.
  6. Education: Gallup: America's confidence in public school system jumps to highest level since 2004.