The Bali-born Cantiasa, 51, whose early experience in Kopassus was with the elite Detachment 81 counterterrorism unit, was previously regional commander in Papua, the only province in the country with an active, albeit low-level, insurgency. The only recent blemish came in March when a squad of rogue special forces soldiers raided a prison on the outskirts of Jogyakarta and summarily executed four detainees who had stabbed to death an off-duty colleague in a nightclub altercation.
Although the Indonesia-US special forces relationship was normalized in , the training since then has only focused on education and high-altitude parachute insertion, with senator Leahy and the State Department ensuring that joint combat exercises stayed off the agenda.
Ironically, when then US president Barack Obama visited Indonesia for the East Asia Summit, Kopassus and army regulars occupied the two inner rings of the security cordon at Bali airport, leaving the police, who are normally in charge of internal security, on the perimeter. US Ambassador to Indonesia Joseph Donovan this week indicated that the advanced level of engagement will at this point only apply to Detachment 81 in its role as a counterterrorism force, and that the US would take a cautious approach to next steps.
While there is no explicit distinction between lethal and non-lethal military assistance, modifications to the Leahy Amendment allow for exemptions if the Defense and State Departments agree that a country has taken all the necessary corrective steps. Washington sources say they believe joint combat training can proceed without actually changing the law.
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What we are doing now does not require a legislative fix, but we have consulted with Congress on this. While they were well-justified in pressuring Indonesia over its culture of impunity, their persecutory influence remained long after the fall of president Suharto, often to the frustration of American diplomats who wanted to reward Indonesia for its rapid transition to democracy. Despite the restoration of military ties in , it was three years before Leahy had a change of heart on the whole issue, largely because of his endorsement of then presidential candidate Barack Obama, who still felt a strong emotional tie to a country where he had spent part of his childhood.
Echoes of the past linger, however.
Abusive Indonesian unit back in America’s good graces
Among them is Fauka Noor Farid, one of the eleven members of the so-called Team Rose, the undercover unit responsible for the kidnapping and torture of pro-democracy activists in which led to Prabowo being cashiered from the armed forces. Despite being sentenced to 16 months imprisonment for his role in the abductions, Farid was never discharged from the military, rising from captain to colonel and even serving in Aceh before he was eventually forced to retire in under sustained US pressure.
Still only 49, Farid is a military academy classmate of presidential security force chief Major General Maruli Simanjuntak, son-in-law of influential Maritime Coordinating Minister Luhut Panjaitan, who commanded the soldiers behind the Jogyakarta jail raid. Maruli escaped censure from the army leadership at the time because he had only taken over the coveted Kopassus Group 2 position at midnight that same evening.
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Kopassus book. Read 7 reviews from the world's largest community for readers. In a nation where the military has played an influential social and politic.
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