Although al Qaeda made more than a few threats and feints in the direction of the World Cup in South Africa, prompting all sorts of warnings from friends about my traveling there for the Global Forum, all the group could manage was a soft-target attack in Uganda, not all that far from where I ended up traveling with Vonne a couple of weeks earlier in southern Ethiopia next door.
At once, it's unimpressive and troubling, because it suggests the usual regionalization strategy of somebody looking to internationalize their domestic fight--al Shabaab controls the southern quarter of Somalia but can't seem to expand that control. One way to overcome such resistance or lack of success is to plunge the country into worse violence as a result of intervening troops. Another way is to push those troops out, like Uganda's African Union peacekeepers. By bombing soft targets in Kampala, al Shabaab gets it both ways: trying to intimidate Uganda into leaving and trying to create enough fear in the West to go back to Somalia. For now, it's a fat chance on both.
Most of the reporting on these strikes highlights the "new" linkages between al Shabaab and AQ, but they've been there all along, by most expert accounts, in that usual fellow-traveling way.
All this goes back to a long-standing prediction of mine (in all three trilogy books): as you squeeze AQ with failure in the Persian Gulf, it can go NE into Central Asia or SW into Africa. More regional powers up north willing to fight to stop that than in the south, so the path of least resistance in through the Horn.
Back to my "Americans Have Landed Piece" logic, this is why we set up Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa in the first place, and ultimately, it's why we set up AFRICOM in a strategic flanking maneuver, just like the Shanghai Cooperation Organization was set up by China and Russia in a pre-emptive fashion before even 9/11--same geostrategic instinct.
Point of this story being, expect more of the same over time. Our hope is that we strengthen local security to handle it just well enough, and their hope is a direct fight.