KABUL, Afghanistan — A Pentagon report on the last six months in Afghanistan portrays an Afghan government with limited credibility among its people, a still active if not growing insurgency and an enormous reliance on American troops to train, outfit and finance the country’s defense forces for the foreseeable future.

The report, released on Wednesday, is mandated by Congress every six months. It points to some improvements, including an increased optimism among Afghans about their government and the slowing of the insurgency in places where NATO troops have concentrated their efforts.

But an array of measures suggest that the situation is little better over all than it was six months ago despite enormous expenditures of effort, money and lives by the American and international forces.

“This is, I think, a very serious and sober report,” a senior Pentagon official said at a news briefing on Thursday in Washington, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

“For the last several years we’ve seen this very steep increase in areas that the Taliban control, areas that feel threatened,” the official said, according to a transcript provided by the Defense Department.

“People’s perception of security was getting worse. That’s leveling off.”

Still, according to some of the report’s diagrams, insurgent activity in the last six months has spread to several areas where it had not previously been a major factor.

Many sections of the report are based on close analysis of the situation in more than 100 districts where NATO is concentrating its efforts.

In 92 districts assessed for their support of the Afghan government or their antagonism to it, not one supported the government, although the population was neutral in 44 districts. The number of districts sympathetic to the insurgency or supportive of it increased to 48 in March 2010 from 33 in December 2009.

Despite those trends and an 87 percent increase in violent incidents from February 2009 to March 2010, 59 percent of Afghans surveyed nationwide felt that their government was now going in the right direction, indicating a potential for positive change. There was also a modest increase in the proportion of Afghans who expressed confidence in their government, to 45 percent from 39 percent.

“The majority of the people are on the fence, not that they oppose the government,” the senior Pentagon official said. “And the objective is to move those people who are on the fence in the direction of the government, and in areas where people are opposed to the government, move them at least onto the fence.”

Attitudes are a crucial component in a counterinsurgency, so the changes, while seemingly small, are significant, according to senior NATO officials in Kabul.

Pulling in the opposite direction, however, was the Pentagon’s assessment of the insurgency, which it found to be tenacious, with “robust means of sustaining its operations” in terms of arms, financing and recruits.

“Its operational capabilities and organizational reach are qualitatively and geographically expanding,” the report said. It added that the “strength and ability of shadow governance to discredit the authority and legitimacy of the Afghan government is increasing.”

The report notes that the insurgents have proved adept at returning after a military operation to clear them out and at regaining a foothold by using intimidation and selected executions. Far from winning the support of the population, the Taliban are seen by 52 percent of Afghans as the chief cause of instability, and this perception provides the Afghan government with an opportunity to show itself as the protector of the people. The government has yet to take advantage of that.

The insurgency appears to have expanded its influence in Badghis and Faryab Provinces in the northwest, where there has been little international troop presence in the past.

The slow progress in training Afghan security forces has greatly concerned NATO and especially the United States. Ultimately, the creation of a capable Afghan army and police force will enable international forces to leave Afghanistan. There is a lack of trainers, and some NATO countries that promised to contribute them have yet to send significant numbers to augment their current forces.

In the case of the police, many in the Afghan force are not only illiterate and poorly trained, but also hampered by a nearly nonexistent judicial system, which undermines even their best efforts. Corruption, incompetence and threats make it uncertain whether a person detained by the police will be held, prosecuted or sentenced.

And even if Afghanistan can build an adequate security force, it seems unlikely to be able to sustain that force. Congress appropriated $6.6 billion this year for the Afghan security forces, to cover a two-year period, and $155 million more is coming from other international donors.

But the Pentagon report said that there was “considerable concern” about the Afghan government’s ability to sustain the financing, and that as a result the Afghan defense forces would need “considerable international support for the foreseeable future.”

There were a total of 133,500 international service members in Afghanistan on March 31, 87,000 of them American troops, the report said. More American troops are due to arrive over the next three to four months, bringing the total number of American troops to 98,000.

Attacks on NATO and Afghan forces continued Thursday, when a service member died from an improvised explosive device in southern Afghanistan. In Laghman Province, a suicide bomber attacked a NATO and Afghan National Army patrol, killing one Afghan soldier and wounding two others, according to a senior provincial official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Pentagon Report Finds Few Gains in Afghan War - NYTimes.com