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BAGHDAD, Aug. 17 -- U.S. troops could be forced by Iraqi voters to withdraw a year ahead of schedule under a referendum the Iraqi government backed Monday, creating a potential complication for American commanders concerned about rising violence in the country's north.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's move appeared to disregard the wishes of the U.S. government, which has quietly lobbied against the plebiscite. American officials fear it could lead to the annulment of an agreement allowing U.S..
American officials fear it could lead to the annulment of an agreement allowing U.S. troops to stay until the end of 2011, and instead force them out by the start of that year.
The Maliki government's announcement came on the day that the top U.S. general in Iraq proposed a plan to deploy troops to disputed areas in the restive north, a clear indication that the military sees a continuing need for U.S. forces even if Iraqis no longer want them here.
In its report on efforts to stabilize and reconstruct Iraq, the Government Accountability Office steered clear of the politics of who pays for what. But it left little doubt that Iraq, which racked up $32.9 billion in oil earnings from January through June, can afford to pay more for its own reconstruction.
The GAO estimates that Iraq will earn $67 billion to $79 billion in oil sales this year, twice the average annual amount of revenue that it generated from oil sales from 2005 through 2007. This windfall comes despite the fact that Iraq is still struggling to approach pre-invasion oil-production levels.