WASHINGTON — Maine lawmakers are expressing bipartisan support of President Obama’s announcement today that all U.S. combat troops will be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of the year, though Sen. Susan Collins expressed a note of caution.

Collins, R-Maine, 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 via email when asked about Obama’s announcement. “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.”

Rep. Chellie Pingree said she had no qualms about the withdrawal date.

“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, D-1st, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a statement. “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.”

Pingree came out in opposition to invading Iraq in 2002 – ahead of the 2003 invasion and before she was elected to Congress in 2008 and has been a persistent critic of the war in Iraq while in the House.

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, had not yet commented this afternoon on Obama’s announcement.

MaineToday Media Washington Bureau Chief Jonathan Riskind can be contacted at 791-6280 or at: [email protected] Twitter: Twitter.com/MaineTodayDC.

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