Jakarta - First, its vast community-based intelligence network has been reactivated to serve as the Indonesian military's "eyes and ears". Now, the military's role in the war against terror looks set to deepen with the setting up of anti-terror desks to serve as an early warning system against extremists.
The desks, which will operate in each of the 12 regional commands throughout Indonesia, will help to speed up and coordinate information-gathering and intelligence-sharing between the police and the army.
"The army has the widest and strongest network of human resources, especially in the area of human intelligence," said Indonesian army spokesman Hotmangaradja Pandjaitan.
The 12 desks will analyse intelligence data gathered by their wide-ranging network and share information with the police. Each terror desk is headed by the command's head of staff affairs, with its inspector-general as deputy. It will be manned by at least 10 officers, including its intelligence commanders and territorial assistants.
Combat units, including the army's bomb squads and crack units, may also be deployed in emergencies such as a hostage situation or bomb threat before the police arrival. The army could also detain terror suspects to secure them before they are handed over to the police, Gen Hotmangaradja said.
"It is not our main mission to deal directly with terrorist-related situations, but as we do have the capability, we will act when we are needed. Our main mission is to detect and limit the movement of terrorist groups," he added.
The changes were a direct follow-up to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's order last month for the military (TNI) to take an active part in the war against terror. The presidential order is also a tacit admission that the police - which has been in charge of domestic security since the fall of the Suharto regime in 1998 - is not up to the task.
Analysts said the police, with its crime-solving approach, was not built to anticipate terror threats. The National Intelligence Body, which has lost much of its clout since 1998, has also been less than effective in cracking down on terrorist cells.
While the move to enhance the military's role in the war against terror makes practical sense, it has attracted criticisms from human rights' groups, which fear it would once again lead to excessive human rights abuses by the military.
* Indonesian army moves in to help tackle terrorists (The Straits Times, Nov 7)