In several hours of discussions, the two sides focused on the deteriorating situation in northern Mali, which has become a sanctuary for terrorists, including militants from Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, since the national army lost control of the region after a coup in March.

After the meetings, American officials asserted that the Algerians’ and Americans’ political and military approaches to the crisis had begun to converge, but that more work was needed. “We have agreed to continue with in-depth expert discussions,” Mrs. Clinton said, “to determine the most effective approaches that we should be taking.”

The Islamist takeover of northern Mali is a growing worry for the United States and for France, the former colonial power, which maintains an interest in West Africa and has been pressing for international action…

The support of Algeria, a regional power and neighbor of Mali, would be essential, diplomats say. Algeria, which waged a brutal war against militants in its own country, has one of the strongest militaries in the region and an active intelligence service.