A key element of the current US strategy in Iraq, the training of Iraqi forces, is still proceeding too slowly, a new report by a US think-tank says.
Insurgents often target new Iraqi police
Iraqis will not be able to take over the most demanding security roles until late 2005-06, the Center for Strategic and International Studies' report says.
The report was published by a respected military analyst, Anthony Cordesman.
Many experts have said that the Pentagon does not have an effective strategy to deal with the insurgency.
Even Bush administration officials regularly concede these days that the violence in Iraq has increased and that it could, and may even be likely, to get worse still as the planned election there gets closer.
A former Pentagon official, Mr Cordesman is now a senior analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
Violence can get worse as the poll draws closer, experts say
His report says it will be a race to have enough Iraqi security forces ready in time for January's planned election.
Behind the scenes Pentagon officials say what's unfolding on the ground in Iraq at the moment is a mixed approach to the insurgency depending on local circumstances in different areas.
Political negotiations in one location, air strikes and other types of military operations in, say, parts of Baghdad, and a waiting game in other areas, preparing for more Iraqi security forces to become available.
But if those forces aren't going to be ready in sufficient numbers in time, both to take on and, more importantly, to hold some of the more sensitive trouble spots, what's the calculation then?
Might it be feasible to put off further large scale military action and perhaps accept that it won't be possible to hold an election in the worst trouble spots?
Or would that be a sign of weakness that only adds to the momentum of the insurgency?
In which case, does some form of new offensive with all its attendant risks have to take place?
For the US military and the Iraqi authorities, the political and military equation isn't getting any easier.