Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday that the U.S. is preparing to relocate 1,000 troops from northeastern Syria as fighting between Turkish-backed forces and Syrian Kurdish fighters escalates.

"In the last 24 hours, we learned that [Turkish forces] likely intend to expand their attack farther south than originally planned, and to the west. ... We also have learned the last 24 hours that the Kurdish forces, the SDF, are looking to cut a deal with the Syrians and the Russians to counterattack against the Turks in the north. So we find ourselves, as we have American forces likely caught between two opposing, advancing armies and it's a very untenable situation."
— Mark Esper

Driving the news: Esper made the announcement as Turkish-backed forces seized positions along a highway that serves as the U.S. military's main supply route into Syria, forcing U.S. troops to withdraw from another town in the northeast, according to the Washington Post.

  • U.S. and Kurdish officials told the Post that Turkish-backed rebels have set up checkpoints on the highway near Ain Issa, which potentially cuts off U.S. troops based to the west — in Manbij and Kobane — from the bulk of the U.S. forces farther east.
  • The highway is also a route for aid. Humanitarian organizations are withdrawing staff from northeastern Syria as the fighting continues, aid workers said.
  • Syrian Kurdish officials on Sunday said 950 Islamic State, or ISIS, supporters had escaped from a camp for displaced people near a U.S.-led coalition base amid clashes near Ain Issa, a key Kurdish-held town in northern Syria.

The big picture: Esper, appearing on "Fox News Sunday," was grilled by Chris Wallace about reassurances he made last week that the U.S. was not abandoning their Kurdish allies, who lost more than 10,000 troops in the fight against ISIS. The head of the primarily Kurdish SDF said Sunday that the U.S. was leaving them to be slaughtered.

  • Esper responded: "I would say what we've been saying, because we stay in contact with them. We're doing everything we can to get the Turks to stop this egregious behavior. Get them to go back across the line and stop. And that's our message to them at this point in time."
  • Trump, meanwhile, tweeted on Sunday morning: "Do you remember two years ago when Iraq was going to fight the Kurds in a different part of Syria. Many people wanted us to fight with the Kurds against Iraq, who we just fought for. I said no, and the Kurds left the fight, twice. Now the same thing is happening with Turkey. The Kurds and Turkey have been fighting for many years. Turkey considers the PKK the worst terrorists of all. Others may want to come in and fight for one side or the other. Let them! We are monitoring the situation closely. Endless Wars!"

Go deeper ... James Mattis on Trump's Syria decision: ISIS will resurge

Go deeper

Filing suggests Manhattan DA is investigating Trump for possible fraud

Photo: Brendan Smialowski / AFP

The Manhattan District Attorney's office suggested for the first time Monday that it's investigating President Trump and his company for "alleged bank and insurance fraud," the New York Times first reported.

The state of play: The disclosure was made in a filing in federal court that seeks to force accounting firm Mazars USA to comply with a subpoena for eight years of Trump's personal and corporate tax returns.

Updated 33 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 1 p.m. ET: 18,139,438 — Total deaths: 690,452 — Total recoveries — 10,751,618Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 1 p.m. ET: 4,682,461 — Total deaths: 154,965 — Total recoveries: 1,468,689 — Total tests: 56,812,162Map.
  3. Politics: White House will require staff to undergo randomized coronavirus testing — Pelosi says Birx "enabled" Trump on misinformation.
  4. Business: Virtual school is another setback for retail — The pandemic hasn't hampered health care.
  5. Public health: Former FDA chief says MLB outbreaks should be warning sign for schools.

House Democrats subpoena top Pompeo aides in probe of IG firing

Mike Pompeo. Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo-Pool/Getty Images

The Democratic chairs of the House Oversight and House Foreign Affairs committees announced subpoenas Monday for four State Department officials as part of their investigation into the firing of former Inspector General Steve Linick.

Why it matters: The two committees, in addition to Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, are investigating whether Linick was fired because he was probing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the State Department's attempts to bypass Congress to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.