Subject: Indon officers to join 15-month military course in America

The Jakarta Post August 2, 2002

RI officers to join 15-month military course in America

Tiarma Siboro, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Indonesia and the United States have taken a further step to normalizing military ties with the inclusion of five Indonesian middle ranking officers among attendants of a counter-terrorism fellowship program hosted by the U.S.

The Indonesian Military (TNI) spokesman Maj. Gen. Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin said that the five officers would join dozens of officers from several countries invited to undergo a 15-month training at Naval post-graduate school in California, which is slated to begin in September.

"This training program follows a previous agreement between the governments of Indonesia and the U.S. in fighting against terrorism. We (the TNI) hope that this program will lead to resumption of military ties between two countries,

"We will strictly select officers from all forces, Navy, Air Force, and Army, who fit the bill for the program," Sjafrie said.

According to Sjafrie, during the program, the five officers will learn five major programs, namely the introduction to post-conflict security building, war and post-conflict impacts, consensus building strategy, network planning and organization, and logistics provision in post-conflict areas.

At the end of the training, the students will participate in a mandatory seminar on reconstruction of civil security.

"All expenses, including their tuition fee, allowance, as well as accommodation, will be paid by the U.S. government," Sjafrie told The Jakarta Post.

Pentagon officials have earlier revealed that Indonesia would be part of the US$17 million program.

The invitation came ahead of the arrival of Secretary of State Colin Powell here. The secretary of state visits Indonesia to, among other things, offer help to the Southeast Asian country to fight terrorism, and meet with Muslim leaders here.

On Friday, Powell is scheduled to meet with President Megawati Soekarnoputeri, Minister of Foreign Affairs Hassan Wirayuda, and economic and security ministers.

Following the terrorist attacks on the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001, the President George W. Bush administration promoted antiterrorism campaigns, which included a military operation in Afghanistan, known as a hiding-place for Osama bin Laden, leader of the international terrorist group network al Qaeda, whom the U.S. believed to mastermind the attack.

Indonesia has came under a spotlight following the arrest of several citizens abroad, including and Indonesian student Agus Budiman in the U.S. and Agus Dwikarna in Philippine, for their alleged links to international terrorist network.

Sectarian conflicts rocked Maluku and Poso, Central Sulawesi where several foreign officials believed that terrorist activities there are taking part there.

The country was hit by a series of bomb attacks in the last few years, including the Christmas eve bombings which left dozens killed in 2000.

The situation might force the U.S. government to evaluate the country's military relationship with Indonesia which has been strained since 1999 following the post-ballot violence in East Timor which was blamed on TNI.

The U.S. Congress had earlier loosened military ties between Indonesian and the U.S governments in 1992 following the massacre at St. Cruz cemetery in Dili, East Timor.

A TNI senior officer said that the U.S. had recently insisted on resuming its military ties with Indonesia because the country was currently facing difficulties in establishing contact with TNI leaders, especially among middle ranking officers who are now holding key positions.

As part of the steps to resume security ties between two countries, the U.S. government has planned to provide US$16 million for counter-terrorism exercises, but underlined that the training would be for Indonesian Police's force instead of the military.

The Bush administration also planned to allocate $400,000 during the current fiscal year to train civilians in anti-terrorism activities.

Last month, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to lift curbs on an international military training program (E-IMET), but has yet to decide whether or not it would lift the embargo of military equipments imposed on the TNI.

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