- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 4, 2009

In a largely symbolic move designed to send a message to President Obama, a group of House lawmakers is introducing a resolution chronicling the success of the troop surge in Iraq and warning the new commander in chief that if he changes strategy, he takes ownership of whatever happens on his watch.

Rep. Steve King, Iowa Republican and sponsor of the Victory in Iraq resolution, described the measure - expected to be introduced Wednesday - as less of a criticism of Mr. Obama and more of an encouragement that he “expand on the victory rather than walk away.”

“Our military has achieved a definable victory, and I want to tell them that America appreciates them,” said Mr. King, who has visited with troops in Iraq six times, most recently in September. “They’ve left a legacy and it’s up to the new leadership to preserve and enhance the victory they’ve achieved.”

The Democrat-led Congress for two years failed in repeated bids to force a U.S. pullout from Iraq. Most Democrats, including Mr. Obama when he was in the Senate, opposed the surge plan and instead called for an exit strategy.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, even proclaimed in April 2007 that the U.S. had “lost” the war in Iraq and should beat a hasty retreat.

But Mr. King’s resolution highlights the dramatic reduction in violence and civilian deaths since President George W. Bush called for an additional 28,500 troops in January 2007 at the suggestion of Army Gen. David H. Petraeus. It also says that 17 of the 18 progress benchmarks established by Congress in May 2007 have been “substantially or completely met.”

Asked about the resolution, the White House pointed to Mr. Obama’s speech to troops Friday in which he praised the U.S. military’s performance but said the troop surge had not achieved the full political reconciliation Mr. Bush had promised.

“The drawdown of our military should send a clear signal that Iraq’s future is now its own responsibility. The long-term success of the Iraqi nation will depend on decisions made by Iraq’s leaders and the fortitude of the Iraqi people,” Mr. Obama told Marines at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

The president’s plan would keep as many as 50,000 troops in Iraq for continued counterterrorism and missions, a force level that some military experts say will be necessary for many years to keep the factious Middle East state from unraveling.

Mr. King’s resolution has 30 co-sponsors. He planned to wait on introducing the bill until he had 100, but after Mr. Obama’s announcement, he said, “The time to move is now.”

• S.A. Miller and Stephen Dinan contributed to this report.