U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday praised democratic progress in Tunisia, where the “Arab Spring” began, and offered to help the North African country’s fight against Islamist militants.

During a brief visit to Tunis, Kerry said Tunisia and the United States would start a strategic dialogue, usually meaning regular high-level meetings, beginning with a trip to Washington by Tunisia’s premier.

After a crisis last year brought on by the killing of two opposition leaders, Tunisia adopted a new constitution and the ruling Islamists stepped aside for a caretaker administration to govern until elections.