|Subject: Easier To Fight Terror In
Indonesia If Military Ties Resumed: US Admiral
Received from Joyo Indonesian News
US Admiral: Easier To Fight Terror In Indonesia If Ties Closer
SINGAPORE, Jan. 29 (AP) -- It would be easier to fight terrorists in Indonesia if the U.S. resumed normal military ties with the country, the chief of the U.S. Pacific Command said Tuesday.
Adm. Dennis Blair told reporters in Singapore that Indonesia would first have to raise the standards of its military, which has a reputation for brutality. However, he added that he believes the military is making progress on human rights issues.
The U.S. banned military assistance to Indonesia to punish it for its role in the devastation of East Timor after residents of the former Indonesian territory voted for independence in a U.N.-supervised referendum in 1999. Human rights groups have criticized recent discussions within the Bush administration about reestablishing relations with the Indonesian military.
While Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines have arrested dozens of suspected terrorists in recent weeks, many in the region see Indonesia as a weak link because of its failure to arrest militants with suspected links to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist network.
Blair said he believes the U.S. and Indonesia can improve their cooperation in intelligence gathering and other areas but that even more is needed.
"There are modest things that we can do now, but certainly we could be much more effective if we had a fuller relationship which we do hope would be available as the Indonesian armed forces make progress," he said.
Blair said Indonesia doesn't have the resources to eradicate sea pirates or illegal immigrants let alone terrorists.
Blair said he can't confirm reports this week which quoted Indonesia's foreign minister as saying the U.S. offered Indonesia $10 million to train police to combat terrorism. Indonesia's police are now separate from the military.
Terrorism is at the top of Blair's agenda during a tour of the region. He plans to visit the eastern Malaysian state of Sabah Wednesday and then move on to Vietnam, Japan, and South Korea.
Sabah, on the island of Borneo, is near the restive southern Philippines where U.S. soldiers are preparing to train local troops in their fight against Muslim militants there.
There are about 100 U.S. soldiers in Zamboanga in the Southern Philippines and more than 500 others are expected in the next few weeks to train Filipino soldiers to rescue hostages and fight radical groups like the Abu Sayyaf. The Abu Sayyaf is currently holding an American couple hostage.
Blair said the U.S. is keeping its six month deadline for training troops in the Philippines, but he didn't rule out the possibility that U.S. troops would stay longer in the country.
By John O'Callaghan
SINGAPORE, Jan 29 (Reuters) - Admiral Dennis Blair, commander-in-chief of U.S. forces in the Pacific, on Tuesday praised anti-terror efforts in Southeast Asia but said it was too early to claim victory against shadowy militant groups.
Blair, briefing reporters in Singapore, said Washington was looking for specific ways to work with Indonesia but would not reverse a policy restricting military cooperation until reforms of the Muslim giant's security forces were more advanced.
A new arena in the war on terror has opened in Asia with the recent arrests of dozens of suspected militants by Malaysia and Singapore and the arrival of U.S. troops in the Philippines.
"It takes so little these days to conduct a powerful attack -- a few plane tickets, some local sympathisers, half a million dollars and some determined work from the outside," Blair said.
"I don't think any of us wants to overplay the threat but we don't want to think that we are completely on top of it."
Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines have linked the detained men to al Qaeda, the network of Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden blamed by Washington for the September 11 attacks on the United States, and pointed to connections with Muslim groups in Indonesia.
Blair said aggressive steps by various governments were a solid step as security forces adapted from a traditional role to operations encompassing military, police and customs work.
"The events of September 11 have given a positive jolt to our comparing of information and it is far more detailed and forthcoming on all sides," he said. "All of us recognise that none of us has a complete picture."
BETTER TIES WITH INDONESIA
Blair, who visited Indonesia recently, said his impressions of the world's largest Muslim nation and its key issues were still substantially correct.
"It has a big set of challenges and certainly has to be worried about whether international terrorism is one more group that might be working from Indonesia," he said.
U.S. officials accompanying Blair said he was well aware of Congressional limits on contacts with Indonesia's military after the army-led violence in East Timor, but saw the benefits of cultivating better ties at a critical time.
"We have a relationship with Indonesia and are certainly looking for opportunities to take specific action with Indonesia on actions to combat terrorism which would involve taking down terrorist groups," Blair said without elaborating.
"We could all be much more effective if we had a fuller relationship which we do hope would be available as the Indonesian armed forces make progress (with the reforms)."
Blair said he was not aware of reports from Jakarta that Washington had offered millions of dollars of help to Indonesia's anti-terror efforts but pointed to existing intelligence sharing and high-level military contacts at regional forums.
"There's certainly nothing on the scale of what we're working with in the Philippines planned for the near future," he said.
Blair said the six-month term of U.S. forces advising Philippine troops in their campaign against Muslim separatists would be evaluated as the exercises continue.
The admiral was due to receive a military honour later on Tuesday during the Singapore leg of a trip that will also take in Malaysia's Sabah region, Vietnam, Japan and South Korea.
Singapore, which has backed the war on terror and the bombing of Afghanistan, generally has strong ties with Washington and hosts a U.S. logistics operation for visiting ships.
January 31, 2002
Source: Satunet web site, Jakarta, in Indonesian 31 Jan 02
Indonesian navy welcomes US Pacific commander's comments
The TNI-AL Indonesian navy has admitted that it has insufficient maritime assets to properly patrol all of its waters and in fact needs at least 75 more warships.
"We need at least 75 more warships to meet the navy's minimal requirements," said TNI-AL spokesman Cdre Franky Kayatu on Wednesday (30 January).
He said that TNI-AL strength was well short of ideal with only 114 warships and the use of these ships had to be optimized to patrol the waters considered most sensitive.
Franky said that TNI-AL strength was indeed unsatisfactory especially when compared to the strength of the US Navy. "However, the assets that we do have are still sufficient enough to meet any terrorist actions at sea," he said in response to a statement made by US Military Commander in the Pacific Adm Dennis Blair.
In Singapore, Blair said that the war against terrorism would be easier if the US went back to normalizing military cooperation with Indonesia, adding that Indonesia did not have sufficient resources to exterminate piracy and the terrorists who entered Indonesia along with the illegal immigrants.
The TNI-AL spokesman positively welcomed the US desire to restore military cooperation with Indonesia. He said that the TNI-AL only had 26 warships and 10 patrol boats to monitor its most sensitive regions like the Malacca and Banda Straits and waters around Ambon, Irian Jaya, Batam, Natuna and Aceh. There were two patrol boats specifically deployed in Aceh alone.
He added that for the TNI-AL to meet its minimal requirements, it would need another 75 vessels, namely 56 fast patrol boats, two submarines, seven corvettes, six fast torpedo boats and four landing ship tanks.
TNI-AL assets were far too limited for the size of the archipelago to be protected. Franky gave comparisons like India with 180 warships, Thailand with 130, Australia about 60, Singapore 60 and Malaysia about 56 warships.
Before 2010, he said that the TNI-AL expected to procure an additional 10 warships namely transporters and missile equipped patrol boats. "However, it all depends on the national purse. We can only optimize the use of what we have available to protect Indonesian waters," he said.
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