Subject: AFP on US-Indonesia military ties

see also ETAN Opposes Any Resumption of Military Ties with Indonesia

also: NY Times Letter on Military Ties
       International Herald Tribune letter

NYT: United States and Indonesia Quietly Resume Military Cooperation

US resumes low-level military contacts with Indonesia: Pentagon 05/24/2000 Agence France-Presse

WASHINGTON, May 24 (AFP) - The United States has quietly resumed military contacts with Indonesia that were suspended after last year's massacres in East Timor , inviting observers to an exercise in Thailand and scheduling a bilateral exercise in July, the Pentagon said Wednesday.

"What we're doing is cautiously re-establishing contacts with the Indonesian military," Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon told AFP. "We're doing this now because we think they have made some progress toward reform and accountability in their military."

Bacon said the initial contacts have been with the Indonesian forces that were least involved -- the air force, navy and marines -- in the East Timor violence and do not include the army.

The Indonesian air force sent 10 observers to the Cobra Gold exercise in Thailand, which involved US, Thai and Singaporean forces, Pentagon officials said. The exercises ended Tuesday.

The Indonesian navy and marines also have been invited to take part in a bilateral exercise July 18-26 as part of the Cooperative and Readiness Afloat Training (CARAT) exercise that the US Navy conducts with southeast Asian countries, he said.

The exercise will focus on humanitarian assistance, civil action and anti-piracy, he said.

The United States suspended military-to-military contacts with the Indonesian military on September 9 in response to the situation in East Timor .

Bacon described the military activities as "modest steps" that acknowledge progress by President Abdurrahman Wahid in establishing civilian control over the military, which has been accused of complicity in East Timor violence last year that claimed the lives of hundreds of civilians.

"They have made some progress toward reform and accountability and reform in their military. They have worked hard to improve conditions along the border with East Timor . They are moving towards civilian control of the military," he said.

Bacon cited the removal of General Wiranto as defense minister as evidence that Wahid is taking steps to make the military accountable for its action.

Wiranto is currently under investigation for his role in the rampage by military-backed militias in East Timor who opposed an August 30 referendum on independence for the territory.

At the State Department, spokesman Philip Reeker insisted that no decision on resuming the suspended programs had yet been taken.

"We have been looking at ways to encourage positive changes in the Indonesian military, and in doing that, we're looking at our military- to-military relationship as part of the effort, Reeker told reporters.

"Let me stress though that no final decisions have been made in that regard on resuming military cooperation with Indonesia."

But the Pentagon wants to follow up the bilateral exercise in July with small-scale exchange programs and military visits, Bacon said.

"We haven't moved back to a full schedule of military contacts like we had before," Bacon said. "These are the first steps. We have to think about what steps we take after this. The steps we are contemplating will continue to be modest in terms of exchanges, etcetera."


New York Times Letter to the Editor, May 27, 2000

Stop Military Ties With Indonesians

To the Editor:

The Clinton administration should not have resumed ties with the Indonesian military (news article, May 24). Such ties reward the Indonesian military for its continuing abuse of the people of East Timor and Indonesia.

Before the Indonesian military ended its occupation of East Timor in October, it and military-backed militias forced an estimated quarter of a million East Timorese into Indonesia.

More than 100,000 refugees remain, many trapped inside camps where they are terrorized by the military and its militias and suffer from disease and malnutrition.

The military and its militias also attack and infiltrate East Timor from across the border. In addition, the Indonesian military still represses and terrorizes people in Aceh, West Papua and other parts of Indonesia.

Many Congressional members oppose the administration's resumption of military ties with Indonesia and have proposed legislation to prohibit these ties. Congress should pass it.

ELIOT HOFFMAN Forest Hills, Queens, May 25, 2000
The writer was a United Nations-accredited observer at the Aug. 30, 1999, vote in East Timor.

International Herald Tribune June 2, 2000
U.S.-Indonesia Ties

Regarding ''U.S. Reopens Ties With Indonesia'' (May 25):

The article cites a defense official who describes planned joint exercises with the Indonesian Marines as concentrating on ''humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.''

The Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training program scheduled for this summer is actually a large-scale, multiforce, high-prestige exercise that stages simulated assaults.

This spring in Aceh, the Indonesian Army, Air Force and Navy have been sweeping rural villages, killing civilians daily. In West Papua and West Kalimantan, the police are also implicated in atrocities. In West Timor, Indonesian forces still actively support militias that prevent more than 100,000 East Timorese refugees from repatriation.

The new government of Indonesia has certainly made positive steps to reform the military. But Indonesia is far from meeting current conditions imposed by a congressional provision that restricts U.S. military assistance.

International pressure has helped rein in the Indonesian military. To support that country's civil society, it should be strengthened, not suspended.


New York Times May 24, 2000
also published in International Herald Tribune (May 25, 2000)

United States and Indonesia Quietly Resume Military Cooperation

By Elizabeth Becker

WASHINGTON, May 23 -- The Clinton administration has quietly resumed military cooperation with Indonesia, senior defense officials said today, eight months after cutting off those ties following massacres in East Timor.

The United States broke the freeze this month by inviting Indonesian military observers to joint exercises in Thailand and by completing plans this week to hold the first joint exercises between American and Indonesian armed forces in July.

These exercises are a prelude to a much larger military-to-military program the administration will present Congress this month to reward the new, democratically elected Indonesian government for removing some of the senior military officers under investigation for the East Timor massacres and for imposing civilian control of the military, according to senior administration officials.

Since taking office seven months ago, President Abdurrahman Wahid has named a civilian minister of defense and removed General Wiranto, the powerful chief of the armed forces, who is under investigation for allowing several army units to orchestrate last year's rampage in East Timor, which left hundreds dead after the province voted for independence from Indonesia.

But some members of Congress and human rights groups are critical of resuming any relations with the military until the current investigations into the massacres and other human rights abuses in East Timor lead to trials of senior officers.

Senator Russell D. Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, will propose legislation as early as this week to prolong the freeze on military relations until the officers are all put on trial.

And a group of 29 human rights organizations has petitioned Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright to prevent any "resumption of military engagement at any level."

"I really do think it is premature for the Pentagon to be resuming cooperation when there has been a lack of accountability for the senior officers," said Michael Jendrzejczyk of Human Rights Watch, which signed the letter to Dr. Albright.

President Clinton suspended all military ties with Indonesia in September when General Wiranto failed to reign in the local militia as it rampaged through East Timor. And in its report issued earlier this year, the United Nations said its investigation uncovered evidence that special forces of the Indonesian army did "support the militias in intimidation and terror attacks" in East Timor.

To avoid working with those units, the Pentagon is renewing its ties first with the Indonesia's air force and navy. The joint exercises this summer will be held with Indonesian marines and will concentrate on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, according to a senior defense official.

"What better way than to take some first steps towards re-engagement with humanitarian exercises and with the services that don't have a cloud over them," said a senior official who asked for anonymity.

After consultations with Congress, the administration hopes to begin what Dr. Albright described in a letter to the human rights groups as a "carefully calibrated" program to renew ties with the two militaries.

"Given where Indonesia was a year ago, this government has made tremendous progress in asserting civilian control over the military," said Adam Schwarz, the author of "A Nation in Waiting: Indonesia's Search for Stability," (Westview Press, 1994).

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