WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. has recognized Somalia's government for the first time in more than two decades.
Calling it a milestone in the country's fight against Islamist extremists, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made the announcement Thursday alongside Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. President Barack Obama later met privately with the Somali leader at the White House.
The U.S. hadn't recognized a Somali government since warlords toppled dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. American intervention failed two years later after militants shot down two U.S. helicopters and killed 18 American servicemen.
Clinton said times have changed, citing the militant group al-Shabab's retreat from every major Somali city. The U.S. provided $780 million to African forces to help that effort.
The White House also expressed optimism about Somalia's future and pledged to work with the country's new government to promote peace and security, improve the economy and boost social services. Obama also urged his Somali counterpart to "seize this unique opportunity to turn the page on two decades of civil strife," according to a White House statement.
Recognition will help Somalia receive greater assistance from U.S. and international aid agencies. Clinton also spoke about re-establishing an embassy in Somalia in future.
AP White House Correspondent Julie Pace contributed to this report.