The U.S. State Department reported Undersecretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights Maria Otero arrived Monday in Mali.
She is to "discuss political and civilian security issues -- including the conflict in northern Mali -- refugee and migration issues, food security, human rights, trafficking in persons and combating terrorism," the State Department said.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Algeria pressing the issue as support grows for a neutral force envisioned by members of the Economic Community of West African States.
"They're (Algeria) beginning to warm to the idea, to talk through how it might work," a State Department official told The Washington Post on condition of anonymity.
Victoria Nuland, a spokeswoman for the State Department, has said that Washington was looking into ways to support the ECOWAS mission and political evolution in Mali.
Some militants with ties to al-Qaida claimed autonomy for northern Mali following a coup early this year. U.N. officials have said they suspected northern militants were committing atrocities.