Outgoing US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta arrived in Madrid on Tuesday to discuss mutual defense issues with Spanish leaders, including joint cooperation in the fight against cyber-crime.
Panetta, who is on the second leg on his weeklong visit to European allies, told reporters traveling with him that the United States will deploy four Aegis ships to the Rota Naval Base in Cádiz as part of a commitment to beef up NATO operations across the continent.
“The purpose of that is to fulfill our commitment to the European ballistic missile defense system,” he said. “The deployment is important, because it demonstrated how this alliance is making investments to meet the new challenges that we're confronting.”
Panetta will meet with Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and Defense Minister Pedro Morenés. According to US Defense Department officials, the secretary will also discuss the situation in Afghanistan and Mali. Spain has expressed “deep concern” about the situation in Mali where Al Qaeda-linked forces control a large area, the secretary said.
On Monday in Lisbon, Panetta said that the United States has no plans to send troops to the West African nation to help France dislodge Islamist extremists who are occupying the northern part of the country.
"There is no consideration of putting any American boots on the ground at this time," he said
Morenés and Panetta are expected to hold a joint news conference later Tuesday.