Subject: CONG: Sen. Feingold Report from Indonesia 


February 28, 2006

Washington, D.C. - After three days of meeting with senior Indonesian government officials including the President, the Foreign and Defense ministers, the new Chief of the Indonesian military, and the police chief, U.S. Senator Russ Feingold released this statement following his return to the United States from Jakarta, Indonesia. Feingold expressed his optimism about U.S.-Indonesian relations, but warned that the absence of progress in areas including military reform and accountability for past crimes against humanity could undermine further democratic reforms and counter-terrorism efforts. A member of the Foreign Relations and Intelligence Committees in the U.S. Senate, and a long-time advocate for human rights and military reform in Indonesia, Feingold visited the region to develop a better understanding of the challenges facing the United States and its critical partners and allies in the region.

"Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim country, is a critical player in the global fight against Al-Qaeda and its affiliates. The terrorist organization al-Jamaah al-Islamiyah and associated groups in the region pose a serious threat to Indonesia and to the interests of the United States, our allies, and our friends. In response to this threat, the U.S. needs to have a comprehensive counterterrorism strategy and a bilateral relationship with Indonesia aimed at fighting terrorism while supporting that country's recent democratization. It is also important to note that democratic reforms and the growth of civil society have gone hand-in-hand with expanded counterterrorism efforts, a clear indication that Indonesia's political reforms do not come at the cost of the government's ability to fight terrorism.

The Indonesian military has long been an egregious perpetrator of human rights abuses as well as a serious obstacle to democratization. In recent years, efforts to reform the military, while commendable, have produced mixed results. The greatest improvement has been an increase in civilian control of the military and the withdrawal of the military from active politics.

Ridding the military of its private business holdings and providing greater transparency have been harder to achieve. In some areas, the military's treatment of civilian populations has improved, but abuses still occur and there has been virtually no accountability for past human rights violations.

Serious tensions continue in Papua. I urged the government of Indonesia to address the abuses that are taking place and immediately open up Papua to journalists and human rights organizations. Doing so would be an important step toward making transparency and justice a new norm for Indonesia.

United States policy toward Indonesia, including the implementation of the Administration's decision to resume military assistance, must take these ongoing concerns into account. We must ensure that our assistance promotes reform and human rights, we must remain vigilant to any backsliding, and we must develop clear benchmarks for progress.

Carefully circumscribing any new military assistance is critical to formulating an effective bilateral counterterrorism relationship. There may be areas where the Indonesian military's role is warranted, such as maritime security. But any resurrection of the military's historical role in domestic security would be counterproductive to the fight against terrorism, not least because it would likely alienate much of the population. We must therefore make clear that such a development would undermine our bilateral relationship.

We must also be alert to the risk that military assistance could overwhelm other elements of a larger counterterrorism strategy. If Indonesia is going to effectively fight terrorism, it must develop a professional, capable, and honest police force and strong judiciary. An imbalanced U.S. assistance program could harm reform efforts and undermine Indonesia's nascent efforts to coordinate the counterterrorism roles of its various military, police and civilian agencies. Finally, we must expand assistance programs in the areas of education, economic development and the promotion of civil societies. No counterterrorism strategy can succeed unless the political, social and economic conditions that breed terrorism are confronted head on.

Ultimately, we must consider Indonesia in the context of the global fight against Al-Qaeda and its affiliates and the war in Iraq. Public opinion in Indonesia, as in Muslim communities throughout the region, is critically important if we are to dry up potential havens and recruiting grounds for terrorists. Yet Indonesians' views on U.S. policy in Iraq range from indifference to deep suspicion. At best, Iraq is seen as "America's problem." Clearly, the Iraq war continues to drain American resources and distract our attention from the critically important work of engaging our friends and allies in the fight against Al-Qaeda and its affiliates with all the tools at our disposal.

Feingold visited Indonesia from February 22 to February 25, 2006. In addition to meeting government officials, Feingold met with human rights advocates, journalists and other members of civil society, as well as leaders of the political opposition. Feingold also visited Banda Aceh with Admiral William Fallon of U.S. Pacific Command to review post-tsunami reconstruction efforts and progress being made in the peace agreement between the government and the Free Aceh Movement.

see also

Feingold Focuses On Counter-Terrorism, Human Rights, And Military Reform Issues During Visit To Indonesia

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