US military to keep 'strong' role in Middle East: Panetta
KUWAIT CITY (AFP) - The US military will retain a "strong presence" in the Middle East despite a strategic shift to Asia, Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said Tuesday during a visit to Kuwait.
The United States plans to deploy a majority of its naval fleet to the Asia-Pacific along with other advanced weaponry but Panetta insisted that a robust American force would remain in place in the Middle East.
Panetta spoke to reporters aboard his plane before arriving in Kuwait City to discuss bolstering security ties amid tumult in the region and tensions with Iran.
"Let me assure you that the United States is strong enough that we can maintain a strong presence in the Middle east as well as in the Pacific," he said.