WASHINGTON – Maine’s Republican senators remain wary about President Barack Obama’s plans to withdraw 33,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan by September 2012 — 10,000 by the end of this year — while the state’s Democratic House members said they are disappointed by the scope of the drawdown.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she plans next week to question the man nominated to be the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. John Allen, during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. She said in a statement that corruption in the Afghan government has slowed progress toward the Afghans’ being able to take charge of their own national security.

“While I welcome the president’s decision to begin drawing down the number of American troops in Afghanistan, I continue to have many questions about our overall mission there,” Collins said. “I want to hear directly from our military leaders to determine the feasibility of the president’s plan.”

Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe said she will study the president’s plan from her seat on the Select Committee on Intelligence.

“The decisions we make today will have significant, long-term consequences for our soldiers and their families — and it is vital to get this right,” Snowe said in a statement after Obama’s speech.

But District 1 Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree said even before the president’s speech, but after the outline of his plan was clear, that “It’s time to bring the war in Afghanistan to an end.”

After the president’s address to the nation, Pingree added in a statement that, “The plan the president laid out still leaves 100,000 American troops in that country at the end of next year. Although the president is moving in the right direction, it’s time to bring all our troops home and stop spending over $8 billion a month in Afghanistan. We can’t afford it and it isn’t making Americans any safer,” Pingree said.

Second District Democratic Rep. Mike Michaud said in comments released before Obama’s speech that he was “disappointed. This is not an aggressive drawdown.”

Michaud said he has visited Mainers serving in Afghanistan and is proud of all the troops’ work there.

“But our troops have accomplished their mission,” Michaud said. “Osama bin Laden has been killed and al-Qaida has largely been driven from Afghanistan. We need to bring our troops home now” and at a much quicker pace than what Obama plans. 

MaineToday Media Washington Bureau Chief Jonathan Riskind can be contacted at 791-6280 or at:

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