PITTSBURG, Kan. —
Stephen Harmon, an associate professor of history at Pittsburg State University, returned earlier this month from Mali, where he spent the fall semester conducting research.
On Monday, as French troops joined the fight against Islamic insurgents who are in control of the northern half of the country, Harmon described the landlocked African nation as “front and center for terrorism and insurgency in northwest Africa.”
Harmon said the terrorist group operating in northern Mali is an affiliate of al-Qaida.
“That’s reason enough for us to be concerned,” he said. “It’s potentially pretty scary, and it’s very scary for Mali.”
Yet Harmon said he never felt like he was in danger while in Mali. Prior to the events of the past week, life for the average Malian continued as it always had, he said.
“It would be hard to know from daily life in the capital that there’s a war going on,” he said. “People are going about their business. It affects them, and people talk about it, but it’s not like there was an active danger on the street. Life was going forward in a pretty normal fashion.”