|Subject: IPS: Key U.S.
Senate Committee Renews Military Aid To Indonesia
Inter Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 19
In a victory for Pentagon hard-liners, a key Congressional committee has voted to drop conditions on providing U.S. military training to the Indonesian armed forces (TNI).
The Senate appropriations committee went along with the Pentagon's arguments that the TNI's cooperation in the global war on terrorism waged by President George W. Bush should take precedence over human rights and related considerations.
"We can provide some of the training they need so their people can prevent some of the things that happened to us," said Alaska Republican Sen. Ted Stevens. He, along with Hawaii Democratic Sen. Daniel Inouye, led the effort to strip conditions on military training for Indonesia that were included in next year's foreign aid bill.
Human rights groups said the action was a big mistake. "This is a huge step backward," said Mike Jendrzejczyk, an Indonesia expert at Human Rights Watch (HRW). He said activists hope that at least some of the conditions will be re-attached when the bill reaches the Senate floor or the House of Representatives.
"This will be trumpeted by the TNI in Indonesia as meaning that the stigma of what it did in East Timor in 1999 has finally been removed," he said. "It will also be read by many in Indonesia as a signal that human rights are lower on the U.S. agenda."
Indonesia, the world's most populous predominantly Muslim nation, served as a close U.S. ally during the Cold War. But military ties were reduced during the 1990s due to growing concern about the army's human rights abuses in East Timor.
They were cut altogether by the administration of former president Bill Clinton in 1999 when TNI-organized and armed militias devastated the former Portuguese colony after its inhabitants voted overwhelmingly for independence.
Congress subsequently enacted laws making any resumption of military ties -- particularly aid, training, and weapons sales -- contingent on Jakarta meeting several conditions.
These included: bringing to justice those responsible for the mayhem in East Timor and other islands where the TNI has been accused of atrocities; releasing political detainees; giving international organizations access to conflict regions, such as Aceh and West Papua, and ensuring civilian control of the military, including its sprawling budget and business interests.
By all accounts, including the State Department's, Jakarta has made little or no progress on all of these conditions.
But in the wake of the Sep. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon, some administration officials, especially Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, a former ambassador to Jakarta, began arguing to ease the conditions in light of the new war on terrorism, including evidence that the al-Qaeda group had raised money and a few recruits in Indonesia.
U.S. military officials then resumed high-level meetings with their Indonesian counterparts and restored their ability to buy some non-lethal equipment.
At the same time, Congress appeared to dig in its heels at a more rapid rapprochement. An administration request, for example, to finance a new Indonesian "command and control" unit that could act as a "peacekeeping force" in ethnic and religious conflicts there was quietly shelved last month.
But the Pentagon had not give up by any means. Last night it arranged for each of the appropriations committee members to receive letters from both Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell endorsing the move to restore Indonesia's access to the International Military and Education Training (IMET) program.
"I believe that lifting the ban on IMET for Indonesia could encourage even greater Indonesian cooperation against international terrorism," Rumsfeld wrote.
IMET has long been used by Washington to bring promising, mostly mid-level officers to the United States for training. Its cost -- $ 80 million a year to train officers from more than 100 countries -- is quite small compared to other programs, but it also acts as something of a "Seal of Approval," for both participating countries and officers.
During the committee debate yesterday, Inouye and Stevens admitted that the amount of money -- about half a million dollars -- was small but argued that restoring IMET funding for Indonesia would nonetheless boost the TNI's willingness to cooperate with Washington.
"The message of the current policy to Indonesia is that 'you are second class'," said Inouye.
He pointed to the threat allegedly posed by the Abu Sayyaf insurgency in the southern Philippines, where Washington has deployed several hundred Special Operations Forces (SOF) this year to train Filipino soldiers.
"If you think Abu Sayyaf is a problem, then you'd better think twice about Indonesia," Inouye said.
But rights activists say restoring ties to TNI now may be counter-productive. "The committee has abandoned justice for East Timor, the human rights and lives of thousands of Indonesians, and a policy that could have encouraged genuine reform and democratization in Indonesia," said John Miller, director of the East Timor Action Network (ETAN).
"In the name of the war on terrorism, they seem to be endorsing the continued terrorization of the Indonesian people by the TNI," he added.
Jendrzejczyk is especially concerned about the situation in Aceh where the TNI appears to be preparing a major escalation in operations against a long-running secessionist movement.
"For the pressure on the TNI to reform to be lifted now would give exactly the wrong signal at the wrong time," he said.
Opposition to restoring training assistance was not limited to rights activists and their allies in Congress. The State Department reportedly agreed to back restored military training only reluctantly.
In internal discussions, the administration decided not to remove the Leahy conditions on arms sales, at least for now.
JAKARTA, July 22 (AP)--The armed forces Monday welcomed a move by the U.S. Congress to reinstate military ties with Indonesia, but human rights groups are calling it an endorsement of an abusive and undemocratic institution.
"This is a very dangerous move," said Munir, the founder of Kontras, Indonesia's most prominent human rights organization.
"The (Indonesian) military badly needs this endorsement from the United States in order to further legitimize its meddling in politics (and) human rights violations," said Munir, who uses a single name.
On Friday, the U.S. Senate's appropriations committee passed an amendment to lift restrictions on participation by the Indonesian military in the Pentagon's International Military Education and Training program, known as IMET.
Although the bill still has a long way to go in Congress before becoming law, the prospect of resuming ties has alarmed human rights groups who see the military as the main obstacle to democratic reforms in Indonesia after more than three decades of army-backed dictatorship.
Existing legislation prohibits U.S. military assistance to the Indonesian military to punish it for its role in the devastation of East Timor after its residents voted for independence in a U.N.-supervised referendum in 1999.
The current law - called the Leahy Amendment for Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who sponsored it - requires that Jakarta cooperate with investigations and prosecutions of members of the armed forces responsible for human rights abuses in East Timor and the restive provinces of Aceh, Maluku and West Papua.
Human rights groups said that condition hasn't been met.
Brigadier General Tono Suratman, an armed forces spokesman, welcomed the appropriations panel's decision, saying the resumption of military-to-military ties would help Indonesia and the U.S. coordinate their efforts in the war on terrorism.
"In this...we must be able to share information, exchange experiences in combatting terrorists and train our anti-terrorist units and command staffs," he said. Suratman, a former military commander in East Timor, is one of 18 military and government officials indicted for the violence that left hundreds of civilians dead in the former Indonesian territory.
Rights groups have sharply criticized what they said is a recent push by the Bush administration - spearheaded by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, a former ambassador to Jakarta - to reestablish relations with the Indonesian military.
Wolfowitz contends that restarting ties will help the Indonesian military reform itself and help it understand the concept of civilian control over the military.
The army, which was the power behind the brutal 32-year dictatorship of former President Suharto, traditionally relied on the U.S. as its main source of weapons and training.
Under Suharto, the generals exerted tight control, repressing opposition. They lost power after Suharto was deposed in 1998, but regained clout under Megawati Sukarnoputri, who became president in July.
Since then, non-governmental organizations have denounced the security forces for resuming a bloody crackdown against separatist rebels in Aceh province - which they said has killed hundreds of civilians - and for killing a prominent political leader in West Papua province.
"The senators who voted to restore full IMET have effectively given U.S. backing to continued gross violations of human rights," said John M. Miller, spokesman for the New York-based East Timor Action Network.
"In the name of the 'war on terrorism,' the Senate committee will only promote the continued terrorization of the Indonesian people by its military," he said in a statement.
The Jakarta Post
Resumption of IMET boosts RI-U.S. military relations
The decision by the United States Senate Appropriations Committee to endorse the allocation of US$400,000 for the training of the Indonesian Military (TNI) will boost relations between the armed forces of the two countries, according to one military observer.
Hasnan Habib, a three-star general (retired), told The Jakarta Post on Sunday that the International Military Education and Training (IMET) facility would help Indonesian officers expand their views on various international issues such as democracy and human rights.
"Indonesian military officers will also learn how to handle insurgency and terrorism," said Hasnan Habib, who is also a former Indonesian ambassador to the United States.
Directorate General for defense strategy at the Ministry of Defense Maj. Gen. Sudrajat said the military training program was required to enhance the TNI's professionalism as well as its sense of democratization and understanding of civil society.
The United States had in the past funded the training of Indonesian military officers, but this was halted in 1992 following the massacre of East Timorese at Santa Cruz cemetery in 1991.
This decision adversely affected relations between the armed forces of the two countries. Today, many officers currently holding key positions in the TNI are unknown to U.S. military leaders, making communication between them difficult.
For Indonesian officers, on the other hand, the decision deprived them of an opportunity to learn about the United States, its democratic values and human rights.
On Friday, some human rights campaigners slammed the budget approval, arguing the military were still refusing to prosecute officers accused of human rights abuses.
"TNI does not deserve this program as they are continuing to defy legal procedures and demand impunity for all their wrongdoings in the past," said Hendardi, of the Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association (PBHI).
According to Hasnan Habib, the decision to resume the IMET program might restore the opportunity for TNI to improve its military capabilities, giving the U.S. military more support in its anti-terrorism campaign.
Military analyst Kusnanto Anggoro of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) suggested TNI should not misinterpret the U.S. Senate's decision as a sign of appreciation of reform.
"The Indonesian Military must continue its internal reform. I think military reform at the moment is at a standstill," Kusnanto told the Post.
TNI spokesman Maj. Gen. Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin welcomed the decision but cautioned that a joint working group still had to discuss what kind of military training was appropriate for TNI at this point.
"I guess the working group will first of all ask for non-combat strategy training from the U.S. military. But since combating terrorism has become our commitment, maybe we can exchange experiences with the U.S. in dealing with this issue," Sjafrie said.
Sudrajat agreed, saying the Committee's proposal has yet to be endorsed by the Senate during its plenary meeting in October.
Sjafrie brushed aside suggestions that the proposal indicated Indonesia has a link with international terrorism as many have accused.
"The most important thing for TNI is that the recovering military ties between the two countries will not affect our country's sovereignty. If any international terrorist group makes a link with certain groups here, we will not allow the U.S. to execute them in our territory," Sjafrie told the Post over the weekend.
Sudrajat also admitted, however, that some military officers were involved in radical groups.
"But at the present they (these military officers) no longer hold strategic positions either at TNI headquarters, or in Army headquarters," Sudrajat told the Post.
The Wall Street Journal July 22, 2002
U.S. Moves to Resume Ties With Indonesia's Military
By TIMOTHY MAPES and DAVID ROGERS Staff Reporters of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
The U.S. is moving closer to resuming cooperation with Indonesia's scandal-tainted military in a step that President Bush's administration hopes will bolster its war against terrorism but that critics charge could undermine democratic reforms in the world's largest Muslim nation.
After months of signaling that it wants to build closer ties with Indonesia's armed forces, the U.S. administration reached an agreement with key members of Congress last week that should allow training programs for Indonesian soldiers to begin again in the U.S.
The plan, which was approved by the Senate's Appropriations Committee and now needs the support of the rest of Congress, represents a first step toward overturning strict limits on U.S. military contacts with Indonesia. Congress imposed those limits in 1999 after hundreds of people died in an orgy of violence allegedly orchestrated by Indonesia's military after East Timor voted for independence from the country.
Congress had originally mandated that military ties could only be restored after Indonesia punished the officers who allegedly masterminded the carnage in East Timor, imposed stricter civilian controls over the military's activities, and fulfilled several other conditions.
Most observers agree that Indonesia has fallen far short of fulfilling those conditions. But U.S. officials argue that continuing to limit contacts is counterproductive to their efforts to enlist more enthusiasm and participation from Indonesia in the global war against terrorism. They maintain that a strong Indonesian military is needed to maintain order and prevent the far-flung island nation from becoming a haven for terrorists, as well as to provide a bulwark against the growing popularity of more-militant streams of Islamic thought in the country.
"The president and the secretary of state and I have all been interested in finding ways to work with the Congress to re-establish the kind of military-to-military relationships which we believe are appropriate," U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in May after meeting his Indonesian counterpart in Washington.
Those concerns have become particularly acute as signs have emerged of contacts between international terrorist organizations and Indonesian militants. At least two suspected al Qaeda members have been arrested in Indonesia and turned over to U.S. authorities in the past few months. Authorities in neighboring Singapore and Malaysia, meanwhile, charge that terrorist groups recently arrested in those countries take direction from leaders in Indonesia, while the Philippines has convicted two Indonesians for terrorist acts in that country.
But critics of the U.S. administration's policy warn that re-engaging before the military takes real steps to improve its accountability and human-rights record could backfire.
Indonesia is currently going through a turbulent transition to democracy following the collapse of former President Suharto's authoritarian regime in 1998. But democratic reformers have complained that the military has showed little or no interest in accounting for past human-rights abuses and remains largely outside the control of civilian authorities. The military receives an estimated 70% of its operating budget from its vast business operations, which include banks and airlines as well as illegal logging of the country's tropical forests, which continues because of a sense that the institution is above the law.
"Indonesia has been made a more fertile ground for extreme strains of Islam precisely because of the military and authoritarianism," said Jeffrey Winters, an Indonesia specialist at Northwestern University in Chicago. "The military and its role in undercutting the country's political and civil institutions is a big part of the problem, not the solution."
Human-rights advocates are also concerned about the military's role in escalating violence in the resource-rich province of Aceh, on the northern tip of Sumatra island. Thousands of people have died there this year in battles between separatist rebels and the security forces, and the military is preparing a plan to launch a new assault on separatists in the region.
Robert Gelbard, the former U.S. ambassador to Indonesia, described the committee's action as an "unfortunate decision" that will only reinforce the Indonesian military's sense that it can operate with impunity. "They don't feel any consequences for their action, and to the extent that we and others appease them, they will continue their old bad ways."
Green Left Weekly: US strengthens military ties
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