Subject: Jakarta Seeks Renewal Of US Military Ties

Defense News May 1, 2000 Pg. 1

Jakarta Seeks Renewal Of US Military Ties

By Philip Finnegan, Defense News Staff Writer

JAKARTA — Indonesia is seeking the resumption of military relations with the United States, in part to help deal with serious spare parts shortages.

The situation is most critical for the Air Force, the most heavily reliant of Indonesia's services on U.S. equipment, Indonesian and diplomatic officials here told Defense News.

Half of the country's 10 F-16A/B fighters are not operational, while many of its C-130 transports are not flying, according to Indonesian, U.S. and European sources here. Even so, the other services are not immune: The Army and Navy's Bell helicopters also face spare parts shortages.

The United States and other countries imposed arms embargoes against Indonesia in September after it used its armed forces to suppress widespread violence in East Timor, following the region's vote for independence. Though the European Union lifted its arms embargo in January, continuing U.S. sanctions have had substantial impact on Indonesia's military forces, the sources said.

The United Kingdom is resuming deliveries of six Hawk 200 light attack aircraft, the balance of a 16-aircraft order. But U.S.- supplied equipment such as avionics cannot be fitted on the planes while Washington's restrictions remain, according to Indonesian and Western diplomatic sources.

A resumption of training and the provision of spare parts are important for Indonesia, according to Air Vice Marshal Graito Usodo, spokesman for the Indonesian National Defence Forces.

"The most important task is to convince the United States government that we are serious," he said.

U.S. arms sales, joint training and the training of Indonesian military officers all were suspended in September. Although seven Indonesian military officers in the United States for language and other training were allowed to resume their course work in January no new students from the military are being recruited for training there.

Additional restrictions were imposed by the U.S. Congress in November on foreign military assistance or International Military Education and Training (IMET) programs until a series of conditions are met. For example, the Indonesian government would need to take effective measures to bring to justice the members of the armed forces and militias responsible for human rights violations in East Timor.

The armed forces also must agree to work with international peacekeeping troops in East Timor and to allow refugees to return to their homes in the region. Further, the armed forces must demonstrate a commitment to prevent incursions into East Timor by militia groups in the western part of the island of Timor.

Although the United States was close to resuming limited military ties with Indonesia a month ago, an upsurge of trouble in East Timor stymied any hopes of fully ending the sanctions, several U.S. officials here said. Indonesia still needs to get more control of a 500-strong militia to prevent border incursions and violence aimed at East Timorese refugees in West Timor, they said.

A limited resumption of Washington's ties with the government here would have enabled joint training to move ahead, while continuing to prohibit military aid. It also would have allowed planning of the annual bilateral U.S.-Indonesian Carat exercise in August.

The previous Carat exercise in August 1999 brought together three U.S. and five Indonesian ships, along with several hundred marines from both countries to do naval and amphibious training. They also engaged in civic action such as building schools and digging wells.

Even if bilateral ties continue to improve, however, the Carat exercise's prospects are questionable because planning for it must begin by late May each year, a U.S. official said.

U.S. officials insist that not enough has been done to allay their concerns, particularly with recent troubles in East Timor and signs that the military continues to support brutal militias operating out of West Timor.

In an effort to address these concerns, the Indonesian military has held meetings with U.N. peacekeepers in recent weeks to work out measures to avoid problems on the Timor border. A direct telephone link has been set up between the two sides, for instance.

The Indonesian military also sent an additional 800-man battalion to bolster border security. And the military has seized weapons from the militias.

Refugees have been returning to East Timor, with 150,000 of West Timor's estimated 280,000 refugees having returned to their homes, Usodo said.

"We are not yet to the point where we can resume the military-to- military relations that are in our interests," Adm. Dennis Blair, U.S. commander-in-chief of Pacific Command, told reporters here April 3. "If the steps that have been taken so far can continue, and the accomplishments with regard to the refugees, accountability and the militias match the words, I think we will be able to move forward with our military-to-military relationship."

Another U.S. official said the Indonesian military has come a long way in terms of its role in domestic affairs, even if Washington is not ready to lift sanctions.

For example, the Indonesian military, which has a long history of involvement in politics, stayed out of the country's elections last year and will give up seats reserved for it in the Indonesian parliament in 2004. Meanwhile, the police force has been separated from the Army to allay human rights concerns. And the military now is run by reformers working to change it.

Improved military ties are important for Indonesia and the United States, said Maj. Gen. Bimo Prakoso, director of studies for the National Resilience Institute, here, a research and educational organization reporting to the defense minister. U.S. military links benefit Indonesia by helping to maintain the momentum for human rights reform and training in civil-military affairs. By strengthening Indonesia, the United States gets a partner in stabilizing the region — a role it has played as a leader in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, he said.

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