Obama vs. Romney 101: 5 ways they differ on military issues

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has not been expansive regarding his views of the war in Afghanistan – likely, analysts speculate, because both he and President Obama do not have significantly different plans for US troops embroiled in America’s longest conflict. But the next administration is not only winding down a war but ALSO making critical decisions on how to care for returning veterans and resize the Pentagon to fit shrinking defense dollars.

Here are five areas where the candidates differ on military issues: timetable for withdrawal from Afghanistan, automatic "sequester" cuts now set to go into effect in 2013, defense budgets, troop levels, and veteran care.

1. Timeline for Afghan withdrawal

Ihsanullah Majroh/AP/File
Afghan villagers gather near a house destroyed in an apparent NATO raid in Logar province, south of Kabul, Afghanistan, in this June 6, 2012, file photo. It was once President Obama's "war of necessity." Now, it's America's forgotten war. The Afghan conflict generates barely a whisper on the US presidential campaign trail, even though 88,000 American troops are still fighting here,

Former Massachusetts Governor Romney plainly notes that he agrees with Mr. Obama’s September 2014 deadline for withdrawing US combat troops from Afghanistan. “It’s the same time frame the president is speaking of with regards to the transition of the Afghan forces,” he told ABC News on July 29.

Where Romney takes issue with the president is the planned withdrawal of 23,000 US surge troops from Afghanistan in September, which “is still during the fighting season.” Instead, Romney says he would have preferred December 2012 as a withdrawal date.

But this four-month difference in timeline could change, too, pending the recommendations of the US military, Romney added.

When asked if he would keep troops in Afghanistan beyond the current 2014 deadline, if US commanders on the ground requested it, Romney said he just might. “I don’t want to go into hypotheticals, but we recognize the circumstances may change on the ground,” he said. “I don’t think you set hard and fast deadlines without recognizing that there is the potential for conditions to change.”

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