BAGHDAD - 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 yesterday 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 skills 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.

In the article, Yingling, deputy commander of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, wrote that the generals had gone 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, Yingling wrote.

"The intellectual and moral failures common to America's general officer corps in Vietnam and Iraq constitute a crisis in American generalship," he wrote. *