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  U.S. military aid package to Indonesia is flawed

Jakarta/Brussels, 21 May 2002 The U.S. Congress will soon debate a funding proposal for U.S.$16 million to train and equip a new military unit for troubled areas, and train Indonesian police in counter-terrorism. While there is an argument for improving communication channels with the Indonesian military, a new ICG briefing paper, Resuming U.S.-Indonesia Military Ties, says that the funding package is flawed.

The United States and many other countries restricted military aid to Indonesia in response to grave human rights abuses by the armed forces in East Timor. If the U.S. insists on going ahead with the resumption of assistance, it should at the very least make it clear that it is not doing so because of an improvement in the pace of reform in the Indonesian military.

The most problematic aspect of the package is the U.S.$8 million intended for the creation of a new military unit 'to respond to a specific request from local civilian authorities, on an emergency basis, to outbreaks of communal, sectarian or ethnic violence'.

ICG Asia Program Director Robert Templer said: "The military's idea of the unit in practice may differ greatly from how it was conceived in Washington. Once the U.S. gives money to the TNI (Indonesian military), it has little control over how it can be used. The new unit will also reinforce the TNI's role in internal security when the aim should be to strengthen civilian capacity. The unit will come from the same military culture that almost always develops vested economic interests in conflicts, and it will not address the fundamental lack of political will to control militias, punish abusive soldiers, end military corruption or proceed with long-promised reforms".

ICG Jakarta Project Director Sidney Jones said: "This training package needs to be seen for what it is - a wedge in the door to expanded training and supply programs. Any new military unit will have little impact on local conflict until more fundamental reforms are undertaken. The proposal is also unlikely to assist significantly in the fight against terrorism".

The strongest restriction on U.S. assistance to the TNI for training and equipment is the Leahy amendment, an addendum to the Foreign Appropriations Act, which demands greater accountability before any resumption of aid. However, the Indonesian military has done almost nothing to improve accountability on human rights, or budgetary reform.

Sidney Jones said: "If the administration's request for funds is approved, as is likely, the power of the Leahy amendment and pressure for human rights accountability will be weakened. It will lull the TNI and the government into believing that the U.S. has accepted the flawed measures it has taken so far. And, whether true or not, it will be seen by important constituencies in Indonesia as the U.S. backing away from its commitment to democratic change".


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