"We are in for a struggle ... We cannot allow northern Mali," where jihadists are fighting for footholds, "to become a safe haven."
Clinton appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to answer questions about the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in which the U.S. ambassador and three others were killed.
While defending administration actions before and after the Benghazi attack, Clinton acknowledged that many future threats were developing in Africa.
"Given the instability in Syria right now, what we are trying to do is to coordinate closely with a number of like-minded nations, neighbors, and partners to be able to work to try to prevent those [weapons] from falling into the wrong hands, jihadist hands, Hezbollah hands, but also to try to work with the internal opposition for them to understand the dangers that are posed," she said.
"So this Pandora's box, if you will, of weapons coming out of these countries in the Middle East and north Africa is the source of one of our biggest threats," Clinton testified. "There's no doubt that the Algerian terrorists had weapons from Libya. There's no doubt that the Malian remnants of [al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb] have weapons from Libya. So we have to do a much better job."
Clinton said troops of other African nations coming into Mali to fight against jihadist rebels had to be thoroughly trained.
There have been some successes in Africa, she said
"Four years ago, [the Somali terror group] al-Shabaab was one of the biggest threats not only to East Africa, but to the United States," Clinton said. "We have a chance to really continue on a positive track there, but it didn't happen by accident. It took American money, American know-how, American experience. And we have to make the decision we're going to do the same in North Africa as well."