Jacquelyn Martin, Pool, Associated Press
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta speaks to members of the military at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Friday, Feb. 3, 2012.

MUNICH, Germany — U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is reassuring Europe that it remains central to U.S. defense interests, even as the Obama administration is withdrawing two of the four Army brigades stationed on the continent.

In a speech Saturday to an international security conference, Panetta emphasized the positive. He says Europe is America's security partner of choice for military operations and diplomacy around the world.

He notes that the U.S. is building a missile defense system in Europe, including a radar station in Turkey and missiles to be stationed in Romania and Poland. He says four U.S. ships capable of shooting down missiles will be stationed at Rota, Spain.

The departing brigades will be offset by smaller Army units that will rotate to Europe for temporary training assignments.