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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 4 hours ago - World

Over 3,000 detained in protests across Russia demanding Navalny's release

Russian police officers beat protestesters at a rally against of jailing of oppositon leader Alexei Navalny in Moscow on Saturday. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Police in Russia on Saturday arrested more than 3,300 people as protesters nationwide demanded that opposition leader Alexey Navalny be released from jail.

Details: Demonstrations began in the eastern regions of Russia and spread west to more than 60 cities.

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Arizona Republicans censure Cindy McCain and GOP governor

Combination images of Cindy McCain and Gov. Doug Ducey. Photo: FilmMagic/FilmMagic for U.S.VETS/Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Arizona Republican Party members voted on Saturday to censure prominent GOP figures Cindy McCain, Gov. Doug Ducey and former Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who've all faced clashes with former President Trump.

Why it matters: Although the resolution is symbolic, this move plus the re-election of the Trump-endorsed Kelli Ward as state GOP chair shows the strong hold the former president has on the party in Arizona, despite President Biden winning the state in the 2020 election.

Updated 10 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Health: Most vulnerable Americans aren't getting enough vaccine information — Fauci says Trump administration's lack of facts on COVID "very likely" cost lives.
  2. Education: Schools face an uphill battle to reopen during the pandemic.
  3. Vaccine: Florida requiring proof of residency to get vaccine — CDC extends interval between vaccine doses for exceptional cases.
  4. World: Hong Kong puts tens of thousands on lockdown as cases surge — Pfizer to supply 40 million vaccine doses to lower-income countries — Brazil begins distributing AstraZeneca vaccine.
  5. Sports: 2021 Tokyo Olympics hang in the balance.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: Carbon Health's CEO on unsticking the vaccine bottleneck.