Afghanistan needs another 25,000 police, plus more training and weapons, to prevent terrorists from using it as a base to prepare attacks.
"Police are the key to this war," Brig. Gen. Robert Livingston said during a teleconference from Kabul.
"We need police just like we have police at home - that a bad buy can't walk around the neighborhood without bumping into a policeman or without somebody telling a policeman something's going on that's wrong," he said.
Livingston's comments came the same day Taliban militants beheaded seven policemen after overrunning their checkpoints in southern Afghanistan. Six other police officers were missing after the Taliban attacked checkpoints in Arghandab district, said one police officer.
Some of Afghanistan's 57,000 police officers are well-trained and have modern weapons, but there is still more mentoring and training to do, said Livingston, commander of 7,000 military men and women in the Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix.
Livingston said the Afghanistan National Army stands at 55,000 and should reach its goal of 70,000 by the end of next year. Afghan soldiers are fighting beside coalition forces - taking the lead in many operations around the country - and some units will be independent by spring, he said.
"We still have a long ways to go, but we see an amazing transformation that is accelerating," he said.