US Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Joseph Burns has begun a seven-nation African tour.
His first stop was Dakar this week.
Diplomatic sources say Mr Burns’ official sub-Saharan Africa tour is intended to identify ''areas of cooperation'' with African leaders.
But observers believe that the centrepiece of the diplomatic offensive is the fight against terrorism and narco-trafficking, both of which have been rearing their head in four of the seven countries that the envoy is visiting.
The visit is significant because the US has chosen to send a more senior diplomat than the Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, Mr Johnnie Carson.
When Mr Burns paid a courtesy call on the Senegalese Premier Souleymane Ndéné Ndiaye and the Foreign minister Madické Niang in Dakar, sources said the US diplomat sought clear assurances from them against narco-trafficking in particular.
Senegal, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde have in the recent past been seen as the main hubs for drug cartels from South America to Europe.
Ironically, it was Capt Moussa Dadis Camara, the former Guinean coup-maker and junta leader, who launched a furious crackdown on the trafficking network, earning him unexpected accolades from the UN’s top anti-drug agency.
In neighbouring Guinea-Bissau, the civilian leadership, which survives courtesy of a military clique, has feverishly been seeking financial handouts from the US, but these are unlikely to be forthcoming if the suspected narco-traffickers are not reined in.
Mr Burns’ visit will run up to April 25 and will see him through Senegal, Liberia, Angola, South Africa, Namibia, Nigeria and Cape Verde.
The US envoy is expected to raise specific issues of cooperation regarding regional security and reforms whenever he stops.