Aceh: Why The Military Option Still Won't Work
In June 2001, ICG wrote of the situation in Aceh: "The military solution is certain to fail as long as the security forces are incapable of exercising the degree of control and discipline over their troops necessary to prevent behaviour that alienates ordinary Acehnese".
As the 12 May 2003 deadline set by the Indonesian government for the Free Aceh Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka or GAM) to accept Indonesian sovereignty or face all-out war draws closer, nothing has changed. Military reform has stalled over the last two years, and there is no reason to believe that the planned offensive will be conducted any more carefully than those in the past. It will only be bigger. The Indonesian military (Tentara Nasional Indonesia, TNI) is not using the phrase "shock and awe", but the stream of reports on the number of troops, tanks, and weapons being prepared for Aceh is designed to have the same effect.
At the same time, the insurgency in Aceh poses a genuine security threat, and the Indonesian government's options are limited. This briefing explores some of those options and suggests that if an offensive cannot be prevented, opportunities for resumption of negotiations should at least be continuously explored and all possible effort made to ensure that military operations are kept as limited, as transparent, and as short as possible. The move toward war in Aceh also underscores the urgent need for military reform to get back on track, and for domestic and international pressure to be exerted toward that end.
Jakarta/Brussels, 9 May 2003