Subject: AFR: US cuts off funds to train Indon armed forces

Australian Financial Review August 7, 2003

US cuts off funds to train armed forces

Peter Hartcher

The Bush administration, which had advocated aiding the Indonesian armed forces, has now decided against it because it is dissatisfied with the level of Indonesian co-operation in investigating the Freeport killings of US citizens, the Bali bombings, and counter-terrorism.

The decision, disclosed to the The Australian Financial Review by Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, represents a distinct chilling of the relationship between Washington and Jakarta.

In an interview just before the bombing in Jakarta, Mr Armitage said the administration had decided to attach tough new conditions to the aid. It had earlier lobbied a reluctant US Congress to approve an initial $US400,000 ($618,000) for a program for training the Indonesian armed forces or TNI.

Indeed, Deputy Secretary for Defence Paul Wolfowitz had escorted Indonesian Defence Minister Matori Abdul Djalil to lobby members of Congress for the funds.

The controversial program, known as International Military Education and Training or IMET, was suspended after the TNI was shown to be complicit in gang killings of East Timorese after that province voted for independence.

Now the administration has decided to join the Congress in opposing the funding.

Mr Armitage said members of Congress had concerns, shared by the administration, about getting to the bottom of the killings of US citizens.

He went on to specify conditions attached to the aid. "There are several investigations ongoing," he said. "One, that's of great concern to you as an Australian citizen, over Bali, continues. There's a lot of work in the counter-terrorism area, something we both share.

"Then there is the investigation of these killings" in Papua near the Freeport mine. And there's the question of activities against the GAM in Aceh", the TNI operation to kill the independence militia in the Indonesian province of Aceh.

"So there's a lot going on in Indonesia."

Funding of the IMET program, Mr Armitage said, was conditional "on all of the ultimate outcomes of what I've talked about". He emphasised that it was not just the Congress but also the administration that needed to be satisfied on all these items.

"This is something we share," he said. "They [Congress] understand the intellectual rationale for engagement, but their view and our view is we have to be satisfied in terms of the investigation and in terms of seeking justice."

On May 30, Mr Wolfowitz said that while the Freeport killings were a "very important issue", they should not interfere with the US plans to restore the IMET program.

"IMET at times is, too often, I think, made the one point which we use to indicate our dissatisfaction over issues and the fact is that, over the years, I believe exposure of Indonesian officers to US has been a way to promote reform efforts in the military," he said.

As recently as last week, a US senator, Russell Feingold, said the administration should block the IMET money because Jakarta was not co-operating adequately in investigating the Freeport killings, in which TNI complicity is suspected.

"But now the administration is taking precisely the opposite approach and apparently intends to release IMET assistance to Indonesia," Mr Feingold said.

He called for a top-to-bottom review of relations with Indonesia.

But Mr Armitage made it clear the administration was now in full agreement with the Congress in withholding the money.

A State Department spokesman, Phillip Reeker, expressed US disappointment at the the lenient sentencing of Adam Damiri, the Indonesian general found guilty of complicity in the East Timor gang killings and sentenced to three years in jail.

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