Indonesia’s military craves more power Armed forces chief Hadi Tjahjanto
angles for more command control over internal security issues, including
anti-terrorism, now handled by police

By John McBeth <> Jakarta,
February 19, 2018 2:18 PM (UTC+8)

[image: Members of Indonesia's special forces Kopassus march during
celebrations for the 72nd anniversary of the Indonesia military, in
Cilegon, Banten province, October 5, 2017. Photo: Reuters/Beawiharta]Members
of Indonesia's special forces Kopassus march during celebrations for the
72nd anniversary of the Indonesia military, in Cilegon, Banten province,
October 5, 2017. Photo: Reuters/Beawiharta

To the consternation of pro-democracy activists and those with grim
memories of ex-president Suharto’s authoritarian rule, Joko Widodo’s
government continues to mull over legislation that would give the
Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) a wider counterterrorism role.

It is not clear yet what changes will be made to the 2003 Anti-Terrorism
Law, but in a letter to Parliament last month new armed forces chief Air
Chief Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto rang alarm bells by proposing that terrorism
should be changed from a law enforcement to an officially defined state
security issue.

That, and the contention that terrorism is also a threat to territorial
integrity, would place it squarely within the domain of the military, which
lost its internal security role when democratic reforms made it solely
responsible for external defense in 1999.

“The question is whether it is desirable to give the military the authority
to take the initiative without reference to the police,” says Sidney Jones,
director of the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, a think tank.
“It opens a wedge where the dangers will outweigh the benefits that would
come from specifying its roles in the law.”

Previous versions of the draft legislation have allowed Indonesia’s capable
special forces units to spearhead the response in cases of ship or aircraft
hijacks, mass hostage-taking and multiple simultaneous terrorist threats.

“The law only provides for prohibited acts carrying criminal liability for
the perpetrators (and) is only applicable after terrorism acts have been
carried out,” said in his letter to the parliamentary committee working on
the draft.

[image: Indonesian President Joko Widodo (right) inaugurates Air Force
Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto as the country's new military chief at the
presidential palace in Jakarta on December 8, 2017. Photo: AFP / Gagah

President Joko Widodo (R) inaugurates Air Force Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto (L)
as military chief in Jakarta, December 8, 2017. Photo: AFP/Gagah Adhaputra

To deal effectively and efficiently with terrorism, Tjahjanto wrote, the
strategy of “proactive law enforcement” should be applied where terrorists
are lawfully apprehended in the planning stages of an operation before they
can inflict death and destruction.

Maritime Coordinating Minister Luhut Panjaitan, a former commander of the
army special forces’ (Kopassus) elite Detachment 81 counterterrorism unit,
told Asia Times that Indonesia is merely seeking to model itself along the
lines of many Western countries.

He points in particular to the involvement of the British Special Air
Service in the dramatic 1980 Iranian Embassy operation as an example of the
army being called in when the police were not thought to be up to the task.

Panjaitan says the government wants to create a crisis center at the
presidential palace, separate from the existing National Anti-Terrorism
Agency (BNPT), which would make decisions on threat levels and whether to
involve the military in any given situation.

“All we want to do is create the right balance,” says the retired four-star
general, who also acts as Widodo’s chief political adviser. “We want to
establish an equilibrium for the roles of the police and the military.”

Panjaitan rules out formalizing a specific anti-terrorism role for the
military’s nationwide territorial structure. But he says the retired
non-commissioned officers who form the village-level layer, known
as babinsa, could still act as “eyes and ears” of the counterterrorism

Armed forces paint their faces in celebration of the 72nd anniversary of
the Indonesia military, October 5, 2017. Photo: Reuters/Beawiharta

Former president Susilo Bambang Yiudhoyono was furious when he learned that
the militants responsible for the 2009 bombing of Jakarta’s J.W. Marriott
Hotel had been living in a village in Java for four years without anyone
reporting their presence.

Security experts estimate 80% of anti-terrorism efforts focus on
intelligence, 15% on investigation and only 5% on what they call
“door-kicking,” though the tactical capabilities involved in that task are

On that score, there is a significant difference in capabilities between
Detachment 81 and its police counterpart, Detachment 88, which was created
in the wake of the devastating 2002 Bali bombing and has still performed
remarkably well with limited training.

Those limitations became obvious during a joint exercise at a supposed
terrorist-held hotel in central Jakarta, where two police commandoes found
themselves stuck upside down as they rappelled down the front of the
building – in stark contrast to the fast-roping ability of the Kopassus

US instructors and other well-placed sources say that like other
specialized units, Detachment 88 has perishable skills which require
constant training – something that hasn’t been achieved up to now because
of a continual turnover of manpower.

This lack of continuity, they say, means the unit has yet to learn the
teamwork and expertise needed to take down a building occupied by
terrorists, one of the main reasons why the paramilitary force has often
been accused of shooting first and asking questions later.

Indonesian Detachment 88 anti-terror police stand guard near explosive
materials confiscated in raids on suspected militants at police
headquarters in Jakarta, November 30, 2016. Photo: Reuters/Beawiharta

Kopassus appears to have maintained its skill level, despite the 17-year
embargo the US imposed on military contacts between the two countries over
the bloody events in East Timor in 1991 and later during the then
Indonesian territory’s vote for independence in 1999.

While Kopassus has vastly improved its human rights record, it will take
more time to relax the so-called Leahy Law, named after Democrat Senator
Patrick Leahy, which still forbids the Indonesians from engaging in combat
training with US special forces.

US Defence Secretary James Mattis promised to re-explore the issue during a
visit to Jakarta in late January, where he was treated to a bizarre display
of Kopassus soldiers breaking concrete blocks with their heads and drinking
the blood of snakes they had killed.

Ironically, when then US President Barrack Obama visited Indonesia for the
2011 East Asia Summit, Kopassus and army regulars occupied the two inner
rings of the security cordon at Bali airport, leaving the police outside on
the perimeter.

The amended anti-terrorism law aims at bolstering the policy and
coordination powers of the BNPT, a 100-strong counterterrorism agency
staffed by police and military officers which has proved largely
ineffectual since it was established by the Yudhoyono administration in

US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis (L) with President Joko Widodo (R)
during a visit to the presidential palace in Jakarta, January 23, 2018.
Photo: Reuters/Darren Whiteside

Critics say there is no guarantee that giving it more staff and a larger
budget will make it any more effective, particularly in the disengagement
and de-radicalization of terrorist convicts.

Recidivism within five years of an arrest is surprisingly low, certainly
below 10%, but researchers say that has little to do with government
programs and more to do with pressure from wives, the birth of a new child
or other family circumstances.

On the other hand, the Correction Department’s failure to keep convicted
militants in isolation and away from the general prison population has led
to further terrorist recruitment from among common criminals.

To rectify that shortcoming, the government is building a new maximum
security facility on the prison island of Nusakambangan, off Java’s
southern coast, which will eventually hold 240 of the country’s convicted
terrorists and other high-risk prisoners.

It is modeled after Louisiana’s Pollock federal penitentiary in the US,
with one notable exception: it will be surrounded by a moat, which presents
potential water-soaked escapees with an additional hazard when negotiating
an electrified perimeter fence.

The site of a terror attack at a bus stop in Kampung Melayu, East Jakarta,
May 24, 2017. Photo: Antara Foto/Galih Pradipta

Much will depend, however, on whether the supposedly specially trained
guards will make a difference, particularly in preventing the prisoners
from using mobile phones, as they have been able to do by paying off
wardens in other jails.

The 210-square-kilometer Nusakambangan is already home to seven prisons,
including Pasir Putih, which along with Cirebon and Garut in other parts of
mainland West Java is one of three facilities currently designated for
terrorist convicts.

The island houses up to 1,500 prisoners, including about 60 criminals who
face death by firing squad at one of two sites set aside for executions; it
was where Bali bombers Imam Samudra, 38, Amrozi bin Nurhasyim, 47, and Al
Ghufron, 48, were put to death in 2008.

Now on trial in Jakarta, radical cleric Aman Abdurrahman, 46, could suffer
the same fate if he is found guilty of masterminding from behind bars the
January 14, 2016, bomb and gun attack in the center of Jakarta which left
four militants and four civilians dead.

It was that incident, inspired by the now-faltering Islamic State of Iraq
and Syria (ISIS), that prompted calls for strengthening BNPT’s ability to
coordinate the 36 different ministries and agencies involved in trying to
rein in violent jihadism.


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