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Bookkeeping problems are to blame for the inability to account for nearly 200,000 weapons issued to Iraqi security forces, the top U.S. commander in Iraq said late Tuesday.

In an interview on Fox News Radio, Gen. David H. Petraeus said he believes the weapons did reach the security forces, but that paperwork deficiencies don’t show their status.

“We believe those weapons all certainly were given to Iraqi units,” Petraeus said, according to a podcast recording on “The Alan Colmes Show.”

Meanwhile, 125,000 sets of body armor and 115,000 helmets intended for Iraqi forces could not be accounted for either, according to a Government Accountability Office report issued July 31.

The report faulted the Pentagon and the U.S. military command in Iraq for not applying the same standards in tracking supplies and weapons that it does elsewhere. The system has since been improved, the report found.

Petraeus was the commander of the “train and equip” program in Iraq during part of the time covered in the report.

In the interview, Petraeus said the rush to get weapons and equipment to the new Iraqi troops was complicated by the need to fight the insurgency.

“We occasionally likened it to building the world’s largest aircraft while in flight and while being shot at,” Petraeus said. “But we gradually started putting those procedures into place.”

In the interview, Petraeus also said he will tell Congress in his September report that the “surge” is working.

“We are making progress. We have achieved tactical momentum in many areas, especially against al-Qaida in Iraq and to a lesser degree against the militia extremists,” Petraeus said. “We are also heartened by the number of Iraqi tribes and local citizens who have rejected al-Qaida.”


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