""The U.S. military will retain a "strong presence" in the Middle East despite a strategic shift to Asia, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Dec. 11 during a visit to Kuwait." "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."
"More than 13,500 U.S. forces serve in Kuwait, the secretary told reporters traveling with him." "With nearly 50,000 U.S. troops in the region, the United States is in a position to be able to respond to any contingency that arises there, the secretary said. "Kuwait," he added, "plays a critical role in our ability to do that.""