Subject: update: TNI to Boost Forces in Papua, Kalimantan Border Zones This Year

The Jakarta Globe March 31, 2010

Military to Boost Presence in Papua, Kalimantan Border Zones This Year

by Markus Junianto Sihaloho

The Indonesian Armed Forces on Tuesday said its plan to establish a military command in Kalimantan and a new infantry division in Papua was aimed at strengthening the country's defense in its border regions.

"We hope that with the new military commands we could be more effective in securing these parts of the country," military spokesman Air Vice Marshall Sagom Tamboen said.

A military command in Papua will also reduce the cost and the time needed to deploy soldiers in eastern Indonesia, Sagom added.

"The infantry division can be called on when swift military response is required. The troops can be deployed immediately when they are needed," he said.

"Whenever something happens in [eastern Indonesia], it takes some time to send troops from Jakarta."

A second military command in Kalimantan is also expected to be set up this year, with its headquarters located in Pontianak, West Kalimantan, Sagom added.

The Tanjungpura command in Balikpapan, East Kalimantan, is the only military establishment on the island.

Tanjungpura's theater of operations will be reduced to include the East Kalimantan and South Kalimantan once the second military command is added. The new command will be responsible for West Kalimantan and Central Kalimantan.

For more than 30 years, the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) had run three military commands in Kalimantan, before they were cut to one in the 1980s.

"Establishing a second military command will not cost the government additional money, because we will be using the old base in West Kalimantan," Sagom said.

The Ministry of Defense said it supported the military's plans as long as they did not come at an additional cost to the state.

"The military has to assure us that there won't be any logistical expenses," Deputy Minister Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin said.

Meanwhile, former TNI Chief Gen. Endriartono Sutarto said building more military commands around the archipelago was not the answer to neutralizing threats to national security. Instead, Endriartono said, the military should invest in upgrading its arsenal in the border areas.

Sagom said the military had already looked into that option.

"But for now, because we don't have the budget to buy all the equipment that we need, we need to set our priorities first," he said.

During a national meeting in January, the military identified the border areas as the biggest threat to the security of Indonesia.

An expected Rp 10 trillion ($1.07 billion) 2010 military budget increase will mostly be aimed at supporting operational readiness of the Air Force's Hercules aircraft, the Army's helicopters and tanks, and the Navy's patrol boats, Military Chief Gen. Djoko Santoso said at the defense conference.

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