In April, al-Maliki said Iraqi soldiers and police would take over security responsibility from U.S. and other international forces in all 18 provinces by the end of 2007, allowing the American-led coalition to shift into a support role and possibly begin sending troops home.
"We had hopes and intentions to take over security in all provinces and command of all army divisions before the end of the year," national security adviser Mouwaffak al-Rubaie told The Associated Press. "But there are difficulties and challenges that appeared along the way, in arming, equipping, recruiting and training our armed forces."
Al-Rubaie would not give a new deadline.
"I think it is very difficult to predict a certain time," he said. "This depends on the speed of training and equipping. This depends on the level of threat whether regional or local. But we are not talking about weeks, or not even months. More than months."
U.S. military officials have been signaling for weeks that improvements in Iraqi security forces had not lived up to expectations — especially in the national police, which is widely believed to be infiltrated by Shiite militiamen.
There is intense focus on the next Iraq progress report due in September when the Bush administration had hoped to show that the troop surge was a success, reports CBS News White House correspondent Bill Plante. But there now appears to be no way to meet those expectations that soon.
On Friday, Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, who commands U.S. troops south of Baghdad, said it would take until the summer of 2008 to consolidate recent gains in his area, which controls land routes into the capital from the east and south.
Last week, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace, said the number of combat-ready Iraqi battalions able to fight independently has dropped from 10 to six in recent months despite an increase in U.S. training efforts.
In other developments: