Subject: WSJ: U.S. to Revisit Jakarta Army Aid

Received from Joyo Indonesia News

The Wall Street Journal Monday, January 31, 2005


U.S. to Revisit Jakarta Army Aid

Rice Likely to Tell Congress Indonesia Has Met Criteria For Resuming Military Ties

By MURRAY HIEBERT in Washington and TIMOTHY MAPES in Jakarta. Staff Reporters of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

The administration of U.S. President George W. Bush is expected to begin pressing Congress to permit the resumption of American training for Indonesian armed-forces officers in a step to repair military ties disrupted more than a decade ago over human-rights abuses by Jakarta's army.

Administration officials say aides to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have recommended she notify Congress that Indonesia has fulfilled a crucial requirement clearing the way for the resumption of military relations: that Jakarta is cooperating with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation in the investigation of the murder of two American school teachers in the Indonesian province of Papua in 2002. "Things are in motion to do this quickly," a U.S. State Department official said.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, who visited Indonesia in mid-January to see American efforts to help tsunami victims, said the U.S. ought to "reconsider a bit" restrictions on military training and arms sales in response to recent efforts by the Indonesian armed forces to reform. Mr. Wolfowitz, ambassador to Jakarta in the late 1980s, noted it had been easier for U.S. forces to coordinate tsunami relief with Thailand than Indonesia because of Washington's longstanding military ties with Bangkok.

The U.S. cut military aid to Jakarta after Indonesian troops killed 57 demonstrators in East Timor in 1991, when the territory was part of Indonesia. Restrictions were stiffened as Washington pressed Jakarta to hold its military commanders responsible for a spree of violence in East Timor in 1999 after the territory voted for independence in a United Nations-supervised referendum.

In the U.S. foreign aid bill passed late last year, Congress made any resumption of U.S. military training for Indonesian officers dependent on certification from the secretary of state that Indonesia was helping the FBI investigate the killing of the American teachers in Papua. A preliminary Indonesian police report in 2003 concluded there was a "strong possibility" the attack was mounted by elements of the Indonesian military. At the time, U.S. State Department officials echoed those findings. The military has denied the allegation.

Indonesia initially refused to cooperate with the FBI probe, but more recently Jakarta has allowed investigators to visit the ambush site and question local military officials. Last June, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that an indictment on murder and attempted murder charges had been brought against Anthonius Wamang, who it alleged is a leader of the separatist Free Papua Movement. But officials of that group deny that Mr. Wamang is a part of it and insist their group had no involvement in the killings.

The FBI hasn't been invited back to Indonesia since then, although negotiations are under way to send another team. Seven months after the U.S. indictment, Mr. Wamang remains free in Indonesia, where he has given an interview to a local human-rights group called Elsham -- later broadcast on Australian television -- in which he acknowledged taking part in the attack on the teachers. He also said he had a longstanding relationship with military commanders in Papua and claimed that bullets used in the murders came from the Indonesian military.

Patsy Spier, the widow of one of the teachers killed and who herself was wounded in the attack, has pressed U.S. officials and Congress to maintain the ban on training -- under the program called International Military and Education Training, or IMET -- until Indonesia arrests Mr. Wamang. Ms. Spier credits Indonesia's recent cooperation to the U.S. ban and she wants it maintained until the investigation is complete. "It wasn't until the IMET ban was used as an incentive that cooperation with U.S. investigators began to take place," Ms. Spier said.

The amount of aid that would be made available for training Indonesian officers through the program is a relatively small $600,000 for the U.S. fiscal year ending Sept. 30. This is only a fraction of such aid available for military personnel from Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand and the Philippines.

Some counterterrorism training for Indonesian forces was resumed after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and Washington has frequently said it wants to make Indonesia's military a closer ally in the global war on terrorism. But key members of Congress have repeatedly shot down such efforts at reconciliation because of their concerns that the Indonesian military hasn't improved its human-rights record.

A senior Western official in Jakarta familiar with the discussions on resuming IMET aid acknowledged the obstacles it faces in Congress, but noted that Indonesia's elections last year produced a new government under President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono that seems much more committed to reform than prior administrations. "There's now a strong sense that we need to look again at the whole relationship," he said.

Last week, Indonesian Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono said the restrictions were "punishing" the country and said he plans to go to Washington in March to try to get the U.S. policy changed.

Ms. Rice is already lobbying Congress to resume IMET assistance. "IMET for Indonesia is in the U.S. interest," she said in a written response to a question from Senator Joseph Biden at her confirmation hearing. "The aim of IMET is to strengthen the professionalism of military officers, especially with respect to the norms of democratic civil-military relations such as transparency, civilian supremacy, public accountability and respect for human rights."

Bush administration officials have argued that banning military training makes it difficult for a new generation of Indonesian officers to obtain the skills needed to develop a more professional army. Mr. Yudhoyono himself is a former general who studied on several occasions at U.S. military colleges.

Write to Murray Hiebert at and Timothy Mapes at

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