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US on Iraq security: 'We really don't know what's going to happen'

"We really don't know what's going to happen" with security in Iraq after the U.S. forces leave, says Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick, Deputy Commanding General of U.S. Forces.

WASHINGTON – "We really don't know what's going to happen" with security in Iraq after the U.S. forces leave, a senior U.S. military officer said from Baghdad Wednesday morning.

When asked whether the Iraqi Security Forces can keep violence under control after American forces leave the country, Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick, Deputy Commanding General of U.S. Forces-Iraq, said Wednesday that the U.S. military just does not know.

Mohammed Jalil / EPA

Iraqi and U.S. officers talk during the handover ceremony of al-Asad Airbase in Anbar province, on Wednesday. The U.S. military handed over control of the al-Asad base which is the largest U.S. military Airbase near the Iraqi-Syrian border to the Iraqi government as part of its withdrawal from the country by the end of a year.

"There is a question mark right now for external security," Helmick said during a teleconference from Iraq this morning, adding that the U.S. has "done all we can do," to prepare them for the continuing internal threat facing the country.

Asked whether the U.S. military could be called to help secure the so-called International Zone -- which houses the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad -- Helmick said that Iraqi forces would continue to take on that mission.

"We are going to have to rely on host nation forces," he said, adding that because of the current agreement with the Iraqis, "we have no option" to use U.S. military forces for that mission.

After more than eight years of U.S. military briefings from Iraq this was the last teleconference briefing from Iraq to the Pentagon briefing room.

Helmick served several tours in Iraq, beginning in 2003. When asked whether the war was worth it, he said that is a "personal question." But he added that "from where I sit, I have to say it was."

U.S. troops in Iraq are scheduled to leave by the end of the year when a bilateral security pact expires, after more than eight years of war and occupation that included the overthrow of dictator Saddam Hussein.

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

A U.S. Army soldier from the 2-82 Field Artillery, 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, carries his gear after arriving in Kuwait from Camp Adder in Iraq on Wednesday at Camp Virginia, near Kuwait City, Kuwait.

Some facts from the Pentagon on the U.S. drawdown of troops:

- In 2007 the U.S. occupied 505 bases; today the U.S. occupies five bases.

- Over the past 18 months, U.S. military drivers have clocked more than 16 million miles to carry people and equipment out of the country – that is 482 times around the earth.

- The U.S. has fewer than 1,000 truckloads of equipment left to take out of the country.

-  The U.S. currently has about 8,000 troops left in Iraq, and about 5,000 U.S. contractors. That is down from a high of approximately 300,000 uniformed U.S. military and U.S. contractors in that country in 2007.

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