The United States will help its allies confront the evolving threat posed by al-Qaeda but without having to deploy thousands of US troops abroad, President Barack Obama vowed on Tuesday.
al-Qaeda was now a "shadow" of the group that was behind the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US, Obama said in his annual State of the Union address.
"Different al-Qaeda affiliates and extremist groups have emerged -- from the Arabian Peninsula to Africa. The threat these groups pose is evolving," he said.
However, after more than a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, Obama said the United States did not have "to send tens of thousands of our sons and daughters abroad, or occupy other nations."
"Instead, we will need to help countries like Yemen, Libya, and Somalia provide for their own security, and help allies who take the fight to terrorists, as we have in Mali," Obama said.
The United States has been providing support for French troops, who deployed in northern Mali in January to aid the Malian army flush out al-Qaeda linked Islamic rebels who had seized control of the area.
"Where necessary, through a range of capabilities, we will continue to take direct action against those terrorists who pose the gravest threat to Americans," Obama added.
Mali imploded after a March 22 coup by soldiers who blamed the government for the army's humiliation at the hands of north African Tuareg rebels, who have long complained of being marginalized by Bamako.
With the capital in disarray, al-Qaeda-linked fighters hijacked the Tuareg rebellion and took control of the north.
Analysts say the crisis has been fuelled by a complex interplay of internal tensions and international factors, including al-Qaeda's call to global jihad.