U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta says the nation of Djibouti, in east Africa, has become a key partner in the fights against terrorism and piracy.
Panetta made a brief visit Tuesday to Djibouti, where he met with President Ismail Omar Guelleh and thanked him for his support.
Speaking to reporters aboard the flight to Djibouti, Panetta said the country is helping the U.S. battle regional terrorist groups.
"You all know the significant efforts that have been made against al-Qaida, and now the challenge has moved to some of the key nodes like Yemen and Somalia, and the efforts to go after them require important partnerships in that part of the world," said Panetta. "Djibouti helps provide that partnership for operations that continue not only against al-Qaida but al-Shabab as well."
Somalia's al-Shabab militants are trying to overthrow the Somali government and establish an Islamic state.
The east African nation is also a haven for pirates who prey on ships in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean.
While in Djibouti, Panetta also visited American troops. About 3,000 U.S. service members are stationed in the country.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.