President Bush's former secretary of state says America is losing in Iraq, and voiced skepticism about a possible "surge" of additional U.S. troops.
"It's grave and deteriorating," Colin Powell said of the situation in Iraq on CBS News' "Face the Nation." "And as Secretary-designate of Defense Bob Gates said at his confirmation hearing, we're not winning. So if it's grave and deteriorating and we're not winning, we are losing.
"We haven't lost," Powell added. "And this is the time, now, to start to put in place the kinds of strategies that will turn this situation around."
But with no end in sight to the sectarian violence that has turned parts of Iraq into war zones, the question remains: What steps, if any, should the United States take next?
The recently released report by the Iraq Study Group recommended the withdrawl of U.S. combat forces by 2008. President Bush is considering those recommendations, as well as options that would send additional U.S. troops to Iraq on a temporary basis -- perhaps as long as two years.
There are now more than 130,000 troops in Iraq, and at least one retired Army official, retired Gen. Jack Keane, an ABC News consultant, is recommending that the president send an additional 30,000 to 40,000 troops that would be there for at least a year and a half.
Some top Democrats agree that the crisis in Iraq needs to be handled politically by its own government. But they don't all see eye to eye on whether more U.S. troops should be deployed to Iraq while waiting for that to happen.
Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told "Fox News Sunday" that several active duty generals testified that "adding additional troops would enhance and increase what they call the footprint, and enhance the kinds of antagonisms against the United States forces."
But incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada told ABC News' "This Week" he might be willing to support a troop surge with strict conditions.
"If it's for a surge -- that is, for two or three months -- and it's part of a program to get us out of there, as indicated, by this time next year, then sure, I'll go along with it," Reid said.
However, Keane told "This Week" there is no way to secure Baghdad using Reid's suggestion of a troop "surge" lasting just two or three months.
"It's impossible," he said. "It would take us a couple of months just to get the forces in. What we have to do is clear the insurgents and the Shia death squads out of the area then bring back the protection force. And then the protection force stays in the neighborhood, does not go back to the bases.
"That takes time for people to realize that this really is a secure situation," he added. "And bring the economic packages in and they begin to isolate the insurgents who are trying to sneak back in. Our problem in the past, in Fallujah, in Samarra, twice in Baghdad, has always been the same problem. We've ran the insurgents out, and we never put the protection force in to secure the people."
But Powell said those past efforts meant U.S. forces already tried and failed to control Baghdad by force.
"Over this summer, the United States and Iraqi forces launched Operation Forward Together," he said. "It began in June, and then phase two began in August with thousands of American troops going into Baghdad to try to stabilize the situation. They haven't stabilized the situation. So we have tried this surge of troops over the summer. I am not persuaded that another surge of troops into Baghdad for the purposes of suppressing this communitarian violence, this civil war, will work."
He seemed to wonder how much of the solution is in U.S. hands.
"It is very difficult to see how the American army, the United States armed forces, can impose its will on this kind of conflict," he said. "Ultimately, I think, the Iraqis are the key to the solution. And what I'm sure President Bush is trying to come up with over the next several weeks is: How can American strategy and American efforts support the Iraqi strategy?"
ABC News' Bob Jamieson contributed to this report.