National Public Radio reported Tuesday that Panetta hasn't said much about his future role during the second term of President Barack Obama. NPR, however, said it was expected he'd leave to make room for Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter or Michele Flournoy, former under secretary of defense for policy.
George Little, a spokesman for the Defense Department, brushed off concerns about Panetta's tenure.
"There's always a temptation shortly after an election to engage in what I call Washington parlor games and to speculate about personnel changes that may or may not occur in the future," he said.
Little said Panetta was committed to working with U.S. allies to assess what's needed in Afghanistan to get international forces out of the country by the end of 2014.
"He's focused on the missions of the Department of Defense and he's not focused on his personal future," said Little.
NATO and U.S. defense leaders say Afghan forces are taking the lead in areas populated largely by civilians. Afghanistan holds presidential and provincial council elections April 5, 2014.