The Bush administration is citing increased co-operation from the Iraqi public in the search for hidden weapons as a sign of progress in Iraq.
According to US commanders in the field, the number of arms caches seized by coalition forces in the first six months of this year is already above the amount discovered in all of 2006.
White House spokesman Tony Snow says that does not necessarily mean there are more weapons coming into Iraq. He says the difference lies in a dramatic increase in tips from private Iraqi citizens.
"What is significant is that with increasing regularity, people who are in the know about these things, have in fact been turning them in, talking about locations and also, frankly, talking about the whereabouts of al-Qaida members and others."
Snow says the number of tips from Iraqis has quadrupled in the last year -- up from roughly six thousand per month in the second quarter of 2006, to about 23-thousand per month in the spring of 2007.
"The Iraqi people are sick of folks coming in to kill them. Their view is that those people are not their friends, no matter what they preach."
During a session with reporters, Snow said the Iraqis now see coalition troops and Iraqi security forces as providing credible protection. He said their cooperation is one of the reasons why progress on the security front has come much faster than political progress in Iraq.
"And what you see is people themselves creating conditions for getting to where we want to be in terms of peace and stability throughout the country."
Earlier, President Bush's nominee to be the nation's top military officer (chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) was asked about progress in Iraq during a congressional confirmation hearing.
Admiral Michael Mullen told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the decision to send 30-thousand extra US troops to Iraq is having an impact.
"I believe the surge is giving our operational commanders the forces they needed to execute more effective tactics and improve security. That is happening. Security is better. (It is) not great, but better."
But Admiral Mullen also noted Iraq's political factions have made little progress toward reconciliation, and acknowledged that is hurting US credibility.The US commander in Iraq -- General David Petraeus -- must formally report to Congress on conditions in Iraq by mid-September. President Bush has urged Congress to wait until that report is in before passing judgment on his war strategy.