The change in priorities is seen by critics as a sign the Bush administration has given up on finding any WMDs.

Officials said Pentagon leaders were contemplating shifting a number of intelligence officers, interrogators, translators, linguists and others from the 1400-member Iraq Survey Group (ISG) to combat the intensifying resistance.

"What's more important right now and what's more destabilising: the insurgency or knowing about the WMD?" asked a defence official on condition of anonymity.

Any shifted staff would expectedly augment efforts to prevent further attacks like those that have killed dozens in Baghdad this week and better identify who is involved with the resistance.

Lawrence Di Rita, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's chief of staff, however, said the US was not diluting efforts to find the elusive weapons of mass destruction.

"The ISG has a principal mission of WMD and that remains unchanged. And the emphasis remains unchanged," Di Rita said.

"What's more important right now and what's more destabilising: the insurgency or knowing about the WMD?"

Pentagon official

Di Rita said no decision had been made on the reallocation of intelligence personnel, but other officials said it was very likely such a move would soon be made.

More resources

General John Abizaid, who as head of US Central Command leads the military effort in Iraq, "feels strongly that he needs more counter-terrorism resources and he is going to get them," Di Rita said.

A CIA spokesman declined to comment on what CIA Director George Tenet's views were on the proposal to reallocate people from the weapons hunt.

CIA adviser David Kay, who heads the ISG, reports to Tenet.

Kay's group began its work in June. In an interim report this month, he said no actual weapons have been found, but told reporters that "does not mean we have concluded there are no actual weapons."