The Afghan war has been discussed little during the presidential campaign, even though roughly 60,000 American troops remain deployed there battling a resilient insurgency. GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan brought up the war early in the debate, reiterating that his team agrees with the Obama administration's goal of ending the United States' combat mission there by the end of 2014.

But in doing so, he said, U.S. officials need to "make sure we're not projecting weakness abroad."

How quickly the Afghan drawdown will proceed after the election is a closely watched question in Washington and Kabul, and the prospect of a Romney victory has buoyed those who would like America to keep fighting the Taliban aggressively over the next two years.