Note to Joe Biden: Both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama support leaving troops in Afghanistan after the full handover of security responsibility at the end of 2014, the Romney campaign confirmed during tonight's debate.
Romney promised during the debate that if he were elected president, U.S. troops would be out of Afghanistan according to the timeline set by the Obama administration in conjunction with the government of Hamid Karzai. Romney didn't repeat his previous qualifications that the decision would be made in consultation with the generals on the ground or based on the conditions at the time.
But neither Romney nor Obama talked about the fact that the Obama administration is entering into negotiations with the Karzai government to leave a follow-on force in Afghanistan well past 2014 that would be responsible for counterterrorism missions, training Afghan security forces, and protecting and supplying the State Department's missions in Afghanistan.
Asked by The Cable tonight, Romney campaign Press Secretary Andrea Saul confirmed that Romney does support a "small footprint" of American troops in Afghanistan past the 2014 transition deadline. Romney said so in a November primary debate.
"The commander in chief, perhaps looking at the calendar of the election, decided to bring them home in September instead in the middle of the fighting season. Our commanders said that puts our troops at risk, at danger. ... I think that was a mistake. Our surge troops should have been withdrawn by December of next year, not by September," Romney said. "And the timetable by the end of 2014 is the right timetable for us to be completely withdrawn from Afghanistan, other than a small footprint of support forces."