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Indonesia military to play larger counter-terrorism role

Updated On: Apr 08, 2005

Jakarta – Indonesia’s controversial military, TNI, will be given a much larger role in the war on terror with the creation of a new counter-terrorism coordinating agency. Apart from military officers, the 60-member body will include police officers, intelligence analysts, prosecutors, and immigration, home and foreign affairs officials.

    President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is expected to announce soon the agency’s formation, said Maj-Gen Ansyaad M’bai, head of the counter-terrorism desk in the Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs.   
    The agency – which will report directly to the President – is a natural progression from the counter-terrorism desk, which was created two months after the October 2002 Bali bombing.
    Currently, the counter-terrorism effort is fronted by the Badan Intelijen Negara (BIN), Indonesia’s civilian intelligence agency, headed by retired General Symasul Siregar. He has a team of police and military officers working under him. 
    However, two months ago, in a sign that the TNI was starting to assert itself in the area of counter-terrorism, Badan Intelijen Strategis (BIAS), the military intelligence agency, created a six-man desk headed by an army colonel to press for the search for Jemaah Islamiah (JI) fugitives. 
     BIN currently reports to the President, while BAIS reports to the armed forces commander, who decides what is passed on to the presidential palace.
    The new BAIS office is directing the activities of up to 300 intelligence agents who already form part of the military’s pervasive territorial system, whose tentacles stretch from most of Indonesia’s rural villages to district and regional commands. 
     Mr Siregar, a former BIAS chief with close ties to the President, has been given the task of drawing the two intelligence agencies closer together as part of the overall coordination effort.
    The military’s new-found role stems in part from the fact that the police emphasis is on solving crimes once they have happened, rather than pre-empting them. There has also been growing impatience over the failure to track down elusive Malaysian bomb-makers Azahari Husin and Noordin Mohamad Top, two men blamed for almost all of the major terrorist incidents over the past three years. 
     Senior Indonesian officers say that terrorism is now considered to have the same priority as separatism.
    At the tactical level, the army’s elite special forces – comprising 24-man units – will only be used when a terrorist incident is beyond the capability of police paramilitary teams.  
    “All we are doing is implementing principles that are used internationally. The military will be the striking force in remote areas, where the police don’t have the logistics support, or in hijackings on the high seas,” said Maj-Gen M’bai.

* New Jakarta outfit to fight extremists (The Straits Times, April 6)