RT: U.S. Senate panel votes to aid Indonesia's military
US may ease military training policy for Indonesia
WASHINGTON, July 19 (Reuters) - Momentum is building in Congress to make Indonesia's military eligible for U.S. combat training programs, a move backers say would send a positive signal to the world's largest Muslim nation even though bans on other types of military assistance to Jakarta would continue.
With the Bush administration courting Muslim allies in its war on terrorism, the Democratic-led Senate will consider a foreign aid bill that lifts restrictions aimed at Indonesia in a program to train foreign personnel in military management and combat, and the Republican-led House of Representative was expected to follow suit, congressional aides said on Friday.
Under current policy, only Indonesian civilian personnel are eligible for U.S. training in areas such as military justice and budgeting.
Its armed forces personnel have been barred from the program as Washington sought to distance itself from Indonesia's military, blamed for massacres in East Timor, drug trafficking and other corruption.
The United States limited military ties with Indonesia in 1992 and largely severed them in 1999.
The Senate Appropriations Committee voted to ease the restrictions on the training program in a $16.4 billion foreign aid bill it approved on Thursday. But bans on other military assistance, including financing weapons purchases, would continue under the bill, congressional aides said.
The change would come in the $80 million International Military Education and Training program in which more than 100 countries participate.
Under the Senate bill, Indonesia would be eligible for full participation in IMET, letting Indonesian military personnel attend American schools in combat training and other courses.
Arizona Republican Rep. Jim Kolbe, who chairs the House Appropriations foreign aid subcommittee, supports easing the restrictions and will call for that in the foreign aid bill he is crafting, a subcommittee aide said.
Sens. Daniel Inouye, a Hawaii Democrat, and Ted Stevens of Alaska, the Appropriations Committee's senior Republican, said they heard repeated complaints on a recent trip to Indonesia that the current policy was a slap in Jakarta's face.
"It is saying to Indonesia you are a second-class citizen, you are not worthy of participating in this program," Inouye said, arguing that Jakarta faces severe terror threats from radical Muslim groups.
Even though it was just a $400,000-a-year program for Indonesia, Inouye said it is a powerful symbol to Indonesians who say the current policy ignores progress Jakarta has made since 2001, when President Megawati Sukarnoputri was elected to replace former president Abdurrahman Wahid, who was removed by parliament for incompetence.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat who chairs the Appropriations subcommittee on foreign aid, argued against the change, saying it rewards a military which he said has resisted reforms urged by the civilian government and has not shown it meets human rights standard needed to repeal the restrictions.
Leahy also said the bill contained $121 million in other forms of assistance to Indonesia. "We're sending them 121 big ones in this. After the millions in spending, if we don't give them $400,000 they'll fall?"
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