Spanish Defense Minister Pedro Morenes emphasized the "very good" military relations between his country and the United States and said they will allow both countries to face the "great challenges, risks and threats" that exist in the world.

On his first official visit as minister, Morenes met with U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, with whom he said that that there is an "understanding."

The two men discussed a broad agenda that included Spain's participation in Afghanistan and NATO missile defense, and they also analyzed several international "foci of instability," including North Africa and the Mediterranean basin.

"It's important, and a shared interest with the U.S., to avoid the existence of any type of displacement of Islamic terrorism into zones where they could directly affect, if not completely then in part, the interests of Spain, the EU (European Union) and the world in general," he said.

Panetta emphasized, in turn, that Spain is a "fundamental ally" for the United States and praised its leadership on global security issues, according to Pentagon press secretary George Little.

Meanwhile, he reiterated his "deep appreciation" to Spain for having agreed to host four military vessels with Aegis systems at the naval base at Rota. The ships will comprise part of the NATO anti-missile shield.

The two men emphasized their common interest in strengthening bilateral defense cooperation and underlined their shared commitment to train Afghan security forces that are "strong, capable and sustainable" after the withdrawal of NATO troops from the country in 2014.

The minister emphasized that the calendar fixed in Lisbon and ratified in Chicago in May continues to be in force, with the exit of 10 percent of Spanish troops this year, 40 percent in 2013 and the remaining 50 percent in 2014.

He added, however, that if the three pillars on which the Afghanistan mission is based continue to be adequately established - fulfillment of the mission, fulfillment of the commitments with the allies and the ongoing guarantee for the security of the troops - the withdrawal could be speeded up.

Morenes, whose visit was scheduled to last just 24 hours, also met with directors at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and placed a floral arrangement at the Tomb of the Unknown at Arlington National Cemetery. EFE