The United States announced Thursday its formal recognition of the Somali government for the first time in 20 years. The announcement came during a meeting between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who was swept into office last year. Mohamud had earlier met with Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough and President Obama, who congratulated the Somali leader on his election last September and pledged to continue to work with his government to promote peace and security in the volatile region. Earlier in the week, Deputy Secretary of State Johnnie Caron explained that such recognition would allow Somalia access to more international finance and aid. The war-ravaged country had been without an effective central government since 1991 when military dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was toppled and fighting broke out. Though the country remains a hotbed of terrorist activity and the home base for Islamist militant group al-Shabab, Carson said that U.S. policies in Somalia over the last four years "have made a significant difference in strengthening stability in Mogadishu."