Resuming U.S.-Indonesia Military Ties
The U.S. Congress will soon debate a proposal for funding to train an Indonesian military unit to deal with troubled areas within the country. If approved, the package would be a major step towards the restoration of relations between the U.S. and Indonesian armed forces, damaged by the latter's actions in East Timor. But whatever the apparent attractions in bilateral and security terms of taking this step, ICG believes that the proposed package is flawed.
Until the Indonesian government can show a willingness in conflict areas to discipline errant troops, root out vested economic interests, and control a steady leakage of arms and ammunition into private hands, no new unit will succeed. Although reducing communal and separatist conflict in Indonesia is vital for the country and for the international community, it is unlikely that this proposal will assist in this.
If the U.S. insists on going ahead with the resumption of military assistance, it should at the very least make it clear that it is doing so not because it has seen improvements in the pace of reforms of the Indonesian military but rather because of its own perceived national security imperatives - such as East Asian power balances, sea-lane security and anti-terrorist cooperation. But to suggest, as some U.S. officials have, that renewed aid is a response to improved human rights accountability, better discipline, or more transparency sends a signal that the U.S. is no longer as interested in these reforms.
Jakarta/Brussels, 21 May 2002