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Army Gen. Lloyd Austin also said that while Iraqi security forces have generally proven competent in internal security, they still have a long way to go on external defense.

“I think as we leave, you can expect to see some turbulence in security initially, and that’s because you’ll see various elements try to increase their freedom of movement and freedom of action,” Austin told reporters in Baghdad.

Gen. Austin also pointed to Iranian-backed militias as a threat to stability.

“When you look at the environment in the south, we’ve seen activity over the last several months that are from the Iranian-backed militants,” he said. “We expect that that type of activity could possibly continue into the future.”

All U.S. troops are set to leave Iraq by the end of the year.

From wire dispatches and staff reports