Jakarta– TheUnited States, which recognisesthat Indonesia's military cooperation is criticalin its waragainst terror inSouth-east Asia, has decided to resume training members of the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) after a 13-year suspension. Apart from restoring the military links, several meetings between top Indonesian andUSofficials have also been scheduled in the next few months.
"Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has determined that Indonesia has satisfied legislative conditions for restarting its full International Military Education and Training programme," US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said in a statement on Feb 26 in Washington.
"The department expects that Indonesia's resumption of full international military education and training will strengthen its ongoing democratic progress and advance cooperation in other areas of mutual concern," Mr Boucher said.
There was no immediate word on where Indonesian military personnel will be trained and what kind of courses will be offered to them.
InJakarta, a TNI spokesman saidIndonesiahoped the decision would lead to a full resumption of military ties between the two countries.
“The TNI welcomes any form of cooperation which can benefit and enhance cooperation in the military,” said spokesman Colonel Ahmad Basuki.
US-Indonesia military links have been on hold since 1992, when the Indonesian military allegedly launched a bloody crackdown against pro-independence protesters in Dili,East Timor.
The sanctions were further tightened in 1999, after the Indonesian army was accused of killing about 1,500 people inEast Timorin an unsuccessful bid to prevent the territory from gaining independence.
The ban was effectively written into law by the US Congress in 2002, when US lawmakers insisted that generals in Jakarta were blocking an investigation into the killing of two US school teachers in Indonesia`s Papua province. But Indonesian authorities have since taken steps to improve cooperation with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.
For its part, the Bush administration is eager to enlist the support ofIndonesia, the world’s largest Muslim nation, in its counterterrorism efforts.
USDeputy Secretary of Defence Paul Wolfowitz, a former ambassador toJakarta, is reported to have played a significant rolein the process of restoring military ties byleading lobbies conducted by Pentagon officials.
According to theUSpress, Mr Wolfowitz had told the US Congress thatrestriction in military ties with countries likePakistanandIndonesiawould only harmUSinterest.
He also describedPresident Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, one of the last Indonesian military officers to havestudied in the US, as a democratic reformer.
“I think we can have a more positive influence that way," Mr Wolfowitz was quoted as saying.
* Wolfowitz plays great role in restoring RI-US military ties (Antara, Feb 28)
* US to resume Indonesian military training (Antara, Feb 27)