Former Rep. Lee Hamilton, co-chairman of the Iraq Study Group, said Monday he's "extremely doubtful" that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will be able to secure the country and allow American forces to leave any time soon.
"There is no chance that the Iraqi forces could take over at any time, or certainly by the first of the year," Hamilton said in a nationally broadcast interview. "All of the support efforts, logistical and medical and so forth, they are not close to being able to meet," Hamilton said.
"The most important is inclusivity," he added. "That is making sure that you include all elements of Iraqi society in the government," he said. "They're not close at all. The president gave them a satisfactory rating. But all they've done is create a committee" to work on a host of legislative issues aimed at completing the transition from the Saddam Hussein era.
"I am extremely doubtful about it. He's had quite a bit of time now. He's known exactly what he's had to do. He hasn't done it. His rhetoric is pretty good. His performance is pretty bad," Hamilton said in an interview with on NBC's "Today" show.
The former Democratic congressman from Indiana, long a major player in foreign affairs issues, was interviewed on the same day that al-Maliki told NBC News in an interview that he now believes Iraqi forces will be ready to secure the country on their own by the end of the year.
Hamilton's comments also came at a time when, at home in the United States unity within the Republican Party on Iraq is frayed, although holding up so far. But more pressure is being applied in this area as lawmakers from both the Republican and Democratic parties float proposals in the Senate to get U.S. troops out of Iraq soon.
Dems to try to set deadline
Democrats will try again this week to set a deadline for the reduction of U.S. forces in Iraq.
On the GOP side, two moderate Republicans with respected foreign policy credentials have proposed their own hurry-up initiative, winning a polite but clear rejection from the White House.
President Bush's national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, said "No" when asked Sunday whether Bush could live with the proposal by Sens. John Warner of Virginia and Richard Lugar of Indiana.
He said the administration's "very orderly process" for reviewing its Iraq plans, keyed on a mid-September appraisal of progress, should be allowed to play out without preconditions.
"They've done a useful service in indicating the kinds of things that we should be thinking about," Hadley said of the senators. "But the time to begin that process is September."
The Senate's Democratic leadership also is cool to the Warner-Lugar proposal, but for different reasons.
Democrats favor tougher steps to restrict Bush's options, but need more Republicans to peel away from Bush before they can prevail.
The two GOP senators said nothing in their proposal would bind Bush to a withdrawal timetable or throw the September review off track.
But it does suggest patience is running thin with Bush's course of action even among some Republicans who have been behind him.
"The president will have to make some changes and I'm confident the president will do so," Warner said.
Democratic Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, a presidential contender, predicted enough Republicans would defect from the White House line on Iraq in the months ahead to enable the Democratic majority to overcome delaying tactics in the Senate and ultimately override any Bush veto.
Democrats are coordinating a week of maneuvering that will call to account the small but growing number of wavering Republicans.
One Democratic measure last week, which sought to influence troop deployments, fell four votes short of the 60 needed to advance.
Lugar and Warner said their proposal asks that Bush start thinking now about different options and seek to boost diplomacy. They cited an over-stretched military and growing terrorist threats around the world.
But that does not mean an abandonment of a U.S. presence in Iraq, they said.
"This nation of ours has got to remain in that area," Warner said, pointing to the United States' "vital security interests" involving Middle East oil and relations with Israel.
Hadley appeared on ABC's "This Week," "Fox News Sunday," CBS' "Face the Nation" and CNN's "Late Edition." Warner spoke on ABC; Biden on CNN.