In a move that could draw the United States into another conflict in North Africa, the Obama administration has pledged to help the French in their fight against Islamist militants in Mali, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said Monday. He said the assistance could include air and other logistical support.

The United States was already sharing intelligence with the French when their warplanes struck camps, depots and other militant positions deep inside Islamist-held territory in northern Mali on Sunday. Defense officials said that no decisions had been made about whether the United States would also offer help with midflight refueling planes and air transport, but that those options were under review.