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Friday October 21, 2011 | 02:33 PM

 In a show of bipartisan agreement, GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st, both are applauding President Obama’s announcement today that all U.S. combat troops will be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of the year, ending speculation that some troops would stay for longer, though Collins expressed a note of caution.

Pingree in 2002, before she was elected to Congress in 2008, came out in opposition to invading Iraq and has been a persistent critic of the war in Iraq – launched by President Bush in 2003 - while in Congress.

“The president is making good on his promise to bring all U.S. combat troops home, and I’m hopeful that most of them will be back with their families by Christmas,” Pingree said  “We never should have invaded Iraq and we have paid too high a price for a war that hasn’t made America any safer. Now, we have to turn our attention to Afghanistan and end the war there, so we can bring those Americans serving in that country home as well.”

Collins, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that, "Given the failure of the Iraqi government to agree on a new status of forces agreement that would provide essential legal protections to U.S. troops, I believe the president has made the right decision in withdrawing our troops.”

Collins did express concern, however, that U.S. military leaders might want to keep some troops on the ground to protect gains made in Iraq after years of bloody warfare.

"I have never supported an open-ended and unconditional commitment of U.S. troops in Iraq,” Collins said. “However, I do remain concerned that many U.S. military officials have repeatedly said that they believe a residual force of U.S. troops might have to remain in order to continue training Iraqi troops to help ensure that the significant gains we have made there, at great cost to American blood and treasure, are not lost."

(Updated as of 5:15 p.m.

Rep. Mike Michaud, D-2nd, said he knows from visits to troops in Iraq “how hard they’ve worked to accomplish their mission. I’ve been seeking a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq for years, and I’m glad we’re getting closer to that goal,” added Michaud, a member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

Michaud said that even as the U.S. military presence in Iraq ends, attention must continue to be paid to ensure that veterans of the war “have a seamless transition and get the health care and support that they’ve earned.”

Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, a member of the Senate intelligence committee, said that, “After eight and a half years, the time has come for Iraqis to take over.”

Snowe said in a statement that in her role as an intelligence committee member, she would “continue to monitor the situation and press administration officials to provide greater detail on the president’s plans to maintain what is an indispensable working partnership with the Iraqi government in this key strategic region.  But, protecting our men and women in uniform must be priority number one – and we simply cannot put troops in harm’s way without a rock-solid security agreement that includes immunity for our service members,” Snowe added. )

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Kevin Miller is Washington bureau chief for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media. He has worked as a journalist in Maine for 6 ½ years, covering the environment, politics and the State House. Before arriving in Maine, he wrote about politics, government and education for newspapers in Virginia and Maryland.
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