Washington: Defence Secretary Leon Panetta says the US is providing intelligence-gathering assistance to the French in their assault on Islamist extremists in Mali.
Speaking to reporters traveling with him to Europe, Panetta said that while al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and other affiliate groups in Mali may not pose an immediate threat to the United States, "ultimately, that remains their objective."
A senior US official said talks were continuing to determine what other aid will be provided. The official was not authorized to speak publicly about the issue and requested anonymity.
Panetta`s comments came as the French continued bombing raids across Mali`s north in an effort to root out extremists who seized control of a large chunk of the region about nine months ago.