An active duty U.S. Army officer has taken the unusual step of openly criticizing the way generals have handled the Iraq war, accusing them of failing to prepare their forces for an insurgency and misleading Congress about the situation here.
"For reasons that are not yet clear, America's general officer corps underestimated the strength of the enemy, overestimated the capabilities of Iraq's government and security forces, and failed to provide Congress with an accurate assessment of security conditions in Iraq," Lt. Col. Paul Yingling wrote in an article published Friday in the Armed Forces Journal.
"In 2007, Iraq's grave and deteriorating condition offers diminishing hope for an American victory and portends an even wider and more destructive regional war," he said.
Several retired U.S. generals have delivered similar criticism, questioning planning for the Iraq conflict as well as the management competence of former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.
But public criticism from an active duty officer is rare and may be a sign of growing discontent among military leaders at a critical time in the troubled U.S. military mission here.
An anti-war group, Appeal for Redress, says about 2,000 active duty personnel and veterans have signed a petition calling for a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.
One of its founders, Navy Petty Officer Jonathan Hutto, has said 60 percent of the members have served in Iraq. There are about 1.4 million active-duty personnel in the U.S. military.
In the article, Yingling, deputy commander of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, wrote that the generals went into Iraq prepared for a high-tech conventional war but with too few soldiers.
They also had no coherent plan for postwar stabilization and failed to tell the American public about the intensity of the insurgency.
"The intellectual and moral failures common to America's general officer corps in Vietnam and Iraq constitute a crisis in American generalship," said Yingling, who has served two tours in Iraq as well as in Bosnia and the 1991 Gulf War.
In February, the U.S. forces launched the Baghdad security operation, which calls for deploying about 28,000 additional American troops as well as thousands of Iraqi soldiers. Most will try to secure Baghdad.
Yingling welcomed the change, but suggested it is too little too late.
During the past decade, U.S. forces have done little to prepare for the kind of brutal, adaptive insurgencies they are now fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, Yingling said.
"Given the lack of troop strength, not even the most brilliant general could have devised the ways necessary to stabilize post-Saddam Iraq," he wrote.
Change promotion system?
Yingling said he believes that no single civilian or military leader has caused what he regards as the current failure in Iraq.
Instead, he argued that Congress must reform and better monitor the system for selecting and promoting generals. The Senate confirms promotions to general officer rank and should use that power to hold officers accountable for their performance, he said.
"We still have time to select as our generals those who possess the intelligence to visualize future conflicts and the moral courage to advise civilian policy makers on the preparations needed for our security," he wrote.
In Baghdad, U.S. spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Garver said Yingling was expressing "his personal opinions in a professional journal" and the U.S. command was focused on "executing the mission at hand."
The Armed Forces Journal and its Web site are published by Army Times Publishing Co., a part of Gannett Company, Inc., and the world's largest publisher of professional military and defense periodicals. The company's publications serve all branches of the U.S. military, the global defense community and the U.S. federal government.