Subject: Laks.Net: Sleeping With The Enemy - U.S. Support for TNI

Excerpt/Laks.Net: While it's no doubt true that Indonesia and neighboring countries are home to some dangerous extremists, the US should realize that spending money on TNI won't solve the regional terrorism problem - especially given that rogue generals had long been accused of responsibility for many of the bomb blasts that are now being blamed on Muslim militants.

Laksamana.Net February 20, 2002

Sleeping With The Enemy

During his three-nation East Asia trip, US President George W. Bush is continuing to beat his anti-terrorism drum, while in Southeast Asia debate continues to focus on Indonesia's alleged links to the Al-Qaeda terrorist network of Osama bin Laden.

Over the space of six days Bush is visiting Japan, South Korea and China to discuss economics, weapons programs and America's top priority mission to eradicate terrorism.

His visit to Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing was initially scheduled for October but had to be postponed following the September 11 terrorist strikes on the US.

Although Indonesia is not on his agenda, Bush recently met with Indonesia's new ambassador to the US, Sumadi Brotodiningrat, to talk about Washington's commitment to help Indonesia combat terrorism and other transnational crimes, according to report in The Jakarta Post on February 16.

Described by the Western media as "the weakest link" in the war on terrorism, Indonesia is widely viewed as unwilling to take action against Muslim extremists with suspected links to Al-Qaeda.

Bush pledged to support Jakarta's efforts to reform and modernize its ailing economy, while Sumadi said Indonesia would work closely with the US to fight against terrorism.

Diplomacy aside, Indonesia has come under serious criticism for failing to arrest suspected militants, given that neighboring Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines have all launched crackdowns on alleged terrorists who had apparently been receiving orders from Indonesian firebrand clerics.

Singapore's Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew stirred up a hornets' nest in remarks published Monday (17/2/02) when he said his country was at risk from a terrorist attack because the leaders of regional extremist cells were at large in Indonesia.

He said despite Singapore's recent arrest of 13 suspects with alleged links to the Al-Qaeda, the island state was still in danger because the terrorist masterminds remained free.

Indonesia's chief security minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono responded by saying the government had met its responsibilities in fighting global terrorism, so diplomats would "seek clarification on what Lee's statements mean".

Malaysian authorities have said three Indonesian preachers - Riduan 'Hambali' Isamuddin, Ustad Abu Bakar Ba'asyir and Mohamad Iqbal Abdul Rahmat - spent years indoctrinating members of a Malaysian radical group accused of plotting to overthrow the government.

Reports say the Indonesian clerics are the leaders of the Jemaah Islamiyah group, which wants to create a pan-Islamic state encompassing Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and the southern Philippines.

So far, Malaysia has detained 23 suspected militants, including four Indonesians, three Singaporeans and 16 Malaysians. Indonesia has arrested none.

Explosives Expert

Police in the Philippines in January arrested Indonesian citizen Fathur Rohman al-Ghozi for passport violations and claimed he was the alleged explosives expert for Jemaah Islamiyah.

Philippine prosecutors on Tuesday (19/2/02) dropped the police charges against him for illegal possession of firearms and explosives due to a lack of evidence. Al-Ghozi is likely to appear in court for violating Philippine passport law for using different names.

The US is helping the Philippines fight against Muslim extremists and insisting that Indonesia take tougher action against suspected terrorists.

America's Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) recently said Indonesia was a likely place for Al-Qaeda to base further terrorist operations. Some Western reports have suggested that Osama bin Laden may have slipped into Indonesia, although informed sources say there's no sign of him on Jalan Jaksa.

Authorities in Jakarta claim they can't do much against alleged terrorists due to a lack of sufficient and solid evidence. Many analysts say President Megawati Sukarnoputri's military-backed government fears there would be a backlash by Muslim political parties if alleged Islamic militants were arrested.

National Police detective unit chief, Inspector General Engkesmen Hilep, reportedly left Jakarta Wednesday for a trip to Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines to discuss anti-terrorism efforts, including the suspected involvement of Indonesians.

Tread Softly

Yudhoyono said there is extensive intelligence cooperation between Indonesia, Singapore and other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

He said the State Intelligence Body (BIN) is investigating whether the alleged terrorist masterminds of Jemaah Islamiyah really exist and whether they are in Indonesia.

"In my opinion, if there is intelligence data, or evidence and witnesses, to support the notion that those terrorist leaders are actually in Indonesia, we are more than happy to cooperate. If there is a tangible thing to be done, instead of having a debate in the media we had all better act cooperatively to address the real issue," he was quoted as saying by The Jakarta Post.

BIN chief Ahmad Hendropriyono on February 13 strongly denied that alleged Muslim militant leader Hambali was in Indonesia. He also denied that Al-Qaeda has any cells in Indonesia, although last year he claimed the network had once operated a training camp in Sulawesi.

Army deputy chief General Kiki Syahnakri recently said authorities were looking for Hambali in Indonesia.

The second suspect, Ba'asyir (whose name is sometimes spelt Bashir, Baasyir and Basyir), during police questioning in Jakarta last month denied links to Al-Qaeda but praised Osama bin Laden as "a true Muslim fighter".

The third suspect, Iqbal Abdul Rahmat, was arrested in Malaysia in June 2001 under the Internal Security Act.

Military Aid

The Bush administration has been debating whether to resume military aid to Indonesia, which was cut off by Congress because of human rights violations perpetrated by the Indonesian Defense Forces (TNI) in East Timor in 1999.

The Pentagon has tried to get around the ban by saying that most of the $21 million recently allocated in a defense bill for global counter-terrorism training efforts should be spent on Indonesia.

TNI Commander Admiral Widodo Adisutjipto on February 14 said the armed forces would work to prevent Indonesia from becoming a breeding ground for terrorists.

Foreign and local commentators have denigrated Indonesia's military and police intelligence agencies as being unprofessional and uncoordinated, while TNI has been accused of covertly creating and funding militant Islamic groups in order to strengthen the military's political power.

Conspiracy Theory

Singapore's influential Straits Times on February 11 published a scoop about the discovery of a 15-page Jemaah Islamyiah document detailing a plan to launch a holy war against "Jewish satans" (Americans) in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.

The group allegedly planned to bomb US targets in the three countries on December 4, 2001, but the plot was foiled.

Many observers suspect the document is a fake - concocted by Indonesian and US intelligence agents to give Washington more leverage to resume military aid to Jakarta.

An unnamed Jemaah Islamyiah "source" was quoted as saying: "That is one reason why we failed in Singapore and Malaysia. We underestimated the ability of their governments to detect our plans."

Observers find it difficult to believe that a real Al-Qaeda terrorist would give such a quote to the mainstream media. They suspect the quote was made up to make regional governments look good.

While it's no doubt true that Indonesia and neighboring countries are home to some dangerous extremists, the US should realize that spending money on TNI won't solve the regional terrorism problem - especially given that rogue generals had long been accused of responsibility for many of the bomb blasts that are now being blamed on Muslim militants.


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