Jakarta – The Indonesian military (TNI), long seen as being opposed to the Aceh peace talks, is ready to withdraw reinforcement or "non-organic" troops from Aceh in stages once a peace deal is signed by the government and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) on Aug 15.
TNI spokesman, Colonel Ahmad Yani Basuki, said the military "supports the peace process that has been reached by the government and GAM" in Helsinki,Finland.
"To show our support for the peace process, we are now preparing several policies with respect to our duties in Aceh, including the withdrawal of non-organic troops from the province," he told Antara on Aug 7.
Soldiers posted in remote and hilly areas in Aceh have begun to pack their bags and pull back to nearby towns to facilitate a speedy withdrawal, Col Yani said.
According to an earlier report, the TNI sent about 38,000 non-organic troops to the province last year as the government geared up for a war against GAM. About 14,000 police personnel were also been deployed in the resource-rich Aceh, long treated as a lucrative fiefdom by the TNI.
The newspaper quoted sources as saying that the military will maintain 20,000 soldiers considered as "organic" troops – troops whose home base is in Aceh and who will be stationed at the Iskandar Muda Military Command. Normally, the number of organic troops does not exceed 10 battalions, or about 10,000 personnel.
Under the draft peace deal reached in Helsinki last month, Indonesia will reduce the military and police presence in Aceh, in conjunction with the collection and destruction of GAM weapons. In exchange for giving up its independence bid, GAM will be allowed to form its own political parties that will be able to contest regional elections in 2008.
About 300 unarmed monitors from the European Union and Asean will oversee the security arrangements.
Col Yani made it clear that the military would continue to act against those threatening security in Aceh.
"The TNI will not abandon its main task of maintaining security even though a peace deal has been reached," he said.
* TNI gearing up for troop withdrawal from Aceh: Officer (The Jakarta Post, Aug 8)