ALGIERS — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Algeria for talks on fighting terrorism in Africa's Sahel region. The Obama administration is looking for Algerian cooperation against Muslim extremists in northern Mali.
Secretary Clinton talked with Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika about backing West African efforts against Islamic extremists in northern Mali.
When a March coup toppled the government in Bamako, militant groups in the north imposed a strict version of Islamic law. The terrorist group al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, known as AQIM, expanded its operations in northern Mali, moving to extend its reach throughout the Sahel.
Clinton said AQIM is working with other extremists to undermine democratic transitions in North Africa, and played a role in the September attack on the U.S. mission in the Libyan city of Benghazi that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
Speaking in Algiers, following her talks with Mr. Bouteflika, Secretary Clinton said the United States and Algeria agreed to continue working together along with the United Nations, the African Union, and the Economic Community of West African States to determine the most effective approach to Mali.
"I very much appreciated the president's analysis, based on his long experience, as to the many complicated factors that have to be addressed to deal with the internal insecurity in Mali and the terrorist and drug-trafficking threat that is posed to the region and beyond," said Clinton.
The Economic Community of West African States is working with Mali's transitional leaders on plans for a regional force that would help Mali's military retake northern areas controlled by Islamic militia and ethnic-Tuareg rebels.
The model for that West African force is an East African force in Somalia, an African-led mission backed by the international community in training, intelligence, and logistics.
Secretary Clinton went to Algiers to discuss how Algeria might join the United States, France, and other countries in supporting a West African force for Mali.
A senior U.S. official traveling with the secretary of state said "a whole range of countries in the region really look to Algeria for leadership on this. They know Algeria has unique capability that no one else in the region really has, including the strength of their military and intelligence gathering."