A series of secret meetings was held in recent months to examine the threat posed by an al-Qaida franchise that has become more dangerous since gaining control of territory in Mali, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.
The assessment effort is being led by White House counter-terrorism adviser John O. Brennan and involves top officials from the CIA, State Department and the Pentagon.
The U.S. military commander for Africa recently visited the region with stops in Mauritania, Algeria and other countries that could become part of a peacekeeping force for Mali.
"Right now, we're not in a position to do much about it," a senior U.S. counter-terrorism official told the Post.
However, he said officials have begun to consider contingencies, including the question of "do we or don't we" deploy drones.
Gen. Carter F. Ham, who heads the Army's U.S. Africa Command, said there are "no plans for direct U.S. military intervention" in Mali but he and others have made it clear the United States is prepared to support counter-terrorism or peacekeeping operations by other countries.