Indonesia defence news and military links


Welcome back to the working week!

Last week, my colleague Benjamin Schreer argued that Indonesia will side with the US, despite its (long-standing) non-alignment policy. I have a different view: I think it’s too early to tell, unless something dramatically changes in the strategic environment that causes a fundamental rethink in Jakarta. Relations with China are far more complicated than Ben describes (and in fairness, can describe in a blog post). In particular, I don’t see Indonesia’s bilateral relations with China and the US as zero sum as Ben suggests here:

However, should China continue to push the strategic envelope in Southeast Asia, it’s very likely that Indonesia will not only push back but will also increase its strategic cooperation with the US.

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Wednesday’s Indonesia defence and military links: Natuna Islands edition

I’d like to kick things off with a bit of discussion about Indonesia’s strategic environment. At the office today we talked a little bit about the Natuna Islands in light of Scott Bentley’s Strategist post on China’s nine-dash line and Indonesia. Scott’s post explores a less publicised but no less severe incident in March this year between Chinese and Indonesian maritime security forces in the Natuna EEZ. In his words:

China’s growing enforcement of its expansive claims poses a direct threat to the national security of Indonesia. With this tension between neutrality and self-interest becoming more pronounced in recent years, analysts such as [Ristian Atriandi] Supriyanto have begun to question whether this new dynamic may lead Indonesia to begin to ‘balance’ against China in the years ahead, along with its other neighbours. Indeed, there may be elements of such behaviour already becoming evident in Indonesia’s broader security strategy.

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Monday’s Indonesia defence and military links

Could giving the Indonesian military the right to vote speed up internal reforms? (Also, check out Evan Laksmana’s thoughts in 2010 on this issue)

According to The Australian, ‘Indonesia has experienced a more than 50 per cent surge in pirate attacks in the first half of 2013’ mostly around the Riau province.

A new-ish RSIS report on TNI’s counter-terrorism task force by Jennifer Yang Hui.

Former Kopassus commander and presidential hopeful, Prabowo Subianto, makes a last effort to woo voters with promises of cash. Sigh. We’ll see what happens come April next year.

Lastly, a bit of Indonesian military history with a video on Konfrontasi via Indonesian blog, Garuda Militer:

Indonesia defence news and links

Only a few bits and pieces for today, including:

It seems like the Indonesian police and military are brawling at night clubs (again, sigh). Perhaps they should drop their status before stepping into the club, suggests a member of the National Police Commission.

A new report on human rights links Australian Iroquois helicopters to the alleged indiscriminate shooting of Papuans by the Indonesian military in the late 1970s. DFAT and Defence are reportedly looking into the matter.

Lastly, the female members of TNI and POLRI come out in force on Kartini Day. I couldn’t resist adding this boss picture (above) from this year’s parade in April.

Image source: Tribun News.

Indonesia defence news and links

Picture 20

Here’s your daily dose of Indonesia defence related news and links:

RSIS analyst Ristian Atriandi Supriyanto is quoted in this Asia Report article as saying Indonesia’s air exercises over the Natuna Islands (near the South China Sea) send a political signal to China: “In this sense, the exercises are meant to reassert and demonstrate Indonesia’s sovereignty in the Natunas.”

Over at The Strategist, ANU’s Daniel Grant looks at Australian defence policy and Indonesia. He argues, “[b]ut Australia should consider the possibility that we’ve already seen the full extent of Indonesia’s ‘Westward’ shift.”

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Indonesia and ‘strategic trust’: no-one knows what it means, but it’s provocative


Here’s my latest post on The Strategist, and kudos to the executive editor for letting me keep the phrase ‘dropping the mic’. 

One of the main features of the Indonesian President’s speech to last week’s Jakarta International Defense Dialogue was the concept of ‘strategic trust’. Admitting this was difficult to define, he referred to it as ‘an evolving sense of mutual confidence between nations – particularly between government and militaries’ that enables parties to work together more effectively and, more importantly, peacefully.

President SBY offered two examples from Indonesia’s own history where strategic trust has been the glue in otherwise shattered relationships: between Indonesia and East Timor (a poignant reference given East Timor’s PM Xanana Gusmão was sitting in the audience), and between the Indonesian government and GAM in Aceh. His message is that it’s something that can bring bitter enemies together very gradually over time, ‘brick by brick’, and it has to reach from top leadership to the bottom rung.

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Our new partners at CIMSEC

We’re really pleased to announce a new partnership with the Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC). The Center is a non-profit, non-partisan think tank based in the US. It brings together forward-thinkers from a variety of fields to examine the capabilities, threats, hotspots, and opportunities for security in the maritime domain.

This partnership allows both our organisations to foster discussion and interaction between scholars, military officers and the general public in both our countries on areas of mutual security interest.

We encourage you to visit their excellent blog NextWar which will, from time to time, feature cross posts from Security Scholar and other partner blogs.

Image courtesy of Flickr user DVIDSHUB.

Indonesia series post #5: Like a Boss


Indonesian Army Sergeant Poltak Siahaan is chaired by his team members to receive the trophy for Champion Shot International from Chief of Army, Lieutenant General David Morrison, at this year’s Australian Army Skill at Arms Meeting (AASAM).

AASAM is open to all ADF members and also attracts champions from 16 international defence forces.

Image by Sergeant John Waddell, courtesy of Department of Defence.

Photo of the Day: Pacific Partnership 2012


This kitten was photographed during a Pacific Partnership 2012 veterinary project in the town of San Juan in Samar province, Philippines.

Pacific Partnership is a US Pacific Fleet humanitarian and civic aid mission designed to strengthen regional relations and develop disaster response capabilities, involving military and NGO personnel.

The Australian Defence Force has been involved since 2006, with 41 personnel assigned this year from 23 May to 11 August to deliver engineering and medical aid to Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, and Cambodia.

Image by Camelia Montoy, courtesy of Flickr user DVIDSHUB.

All of the Teams! On CST, FET and Lioness Teams

A quick note on female teams in Afghanistan and Iraq. There is an excellent interview with a female member of a US Cultural Support Team (CST) and Special Forces enabler who deployed to Afghanistan. It sheds light on women in combat from first-hand experiences, but tells us very little about CSTs.


At present there is only limited publicly available information of CSTs’ function and deployment conditions. Objective analysis of their challenges or efficacy is scarce.

There has been however an increase in academic research into Female Engagement Teams (FETs). When I wrote this piece in February last year, there was little analytical material, just media releases and news coverage.

In supplement to my piece earlier this week on research and women in combat, here are some articles for those interested in FETs:

  • Stephanie K. Erwin, ‘The Veil of Kevlar: An Analysis of the Female Engagement Teams in Afghanistan’, March 2012, available here.
  • Keally McBride, Annick T. R. Wibben, ‘The Gendering of Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan’, Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism, and Development, Summer 2012, see here.
  • Thomas W. Moore et al, ‘Opinion Dynamics in Gendered Social Networks: An Examination of Female Engagement Teams in Afghanistan’, December 2011, PDF here.

Like FETs, Lioness Teams were established to engage the population, particularly women and children, during Operation Iraqi Freedom. There are news stories and even a movie about their work, but only a few academic articles:

  • Major Sheila S. McNulty, ‘Myth Busted: Women are Serving in Ground Combat Positions’, Air Force Law Review, July 2011, PDF here.
  • Major Karen J. Dill, ‘Removing the Rose Colored Glasses: Exploring Modern Security Environment’s Effect on the Army Assignment Policy for Women’, US Army Command and General Staff College thesis, 2009, PDF here.

McNulty’s chapter documents the history of the US Army’s Lioness Team program and the development of the Marine Corps equivalent, as well as discussing FETs in Afghanistan. Dill’s thesis analyses the documentary ‘Team Lioness’ to demonstrate how the understanding of women’s roles in the military have evolved.

In summary, this is still a developing area of academic literature, and I’m sure there are some references I’ve missed, so feel free to supplement this with suggestions. Happy reading!

Image by US Army SSG Russell Lee Klikam, courtesy of Flickr user USAJFKSWCS.