USA — Indonesien

Gates Pledges U.S. Sup­port to Indone­sian Mil­i­tary

By Fred W. Bak­er III
Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice

American Forces Press Service - Indonesian Commander Boy Sahril Qamar salutes U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Jerry Morrison, USAF
Indone­sian Com­man­der Boy Sahril Qamar salutes U.S. Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates upon Gates’ arrival in Jakar­ta, Indone­sia, Feb. 25, 2008. Gates will meet with Indone­sian lead­ers and give remarks at the Indone­sian Coun­cil on World Affairs.
Pho­to by Tech. Sgt. Jer­ry Mor­ri­son, USAF

Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates today her­ald­ed Indone­sia as a leader in its region and pledged U.S. sup­port to help the coun­try con­tin­ue its mil­i­tary reforms and build air­lift and mar­itime capa­bil­i­ties.

The sec­re­tary land­ed here this morn­ing to meet with Indonesia’s pres­i­dent and its defense and for­eign min­is­ters.

He held a short news con­fer­ence along­side Defense Min­is­ter Juwono Sudar­sono and lat­er spoke to the Indone­sian Coun­cil on World Affairs. In both events, the sec­re­tary reaf­firmed the two coun­tries’ friend­ship and said he con­sid­ers Indone­sia “an impor­tant region­al leader with glob­al reach.”

“Our rela­tion­ship with Indone­sia has made great strides in the past few years, and I have every expec­ta­tion that it will con­tin­ue to do so in the near and far future,” Gates said.

Gates’ first vis­it to Indone­sia comes at a time when the gov­ern­ment here is reform­ing its mil­i­tary and nation­al secu­ri­ty pro­grams. The coun­try is pulling its mil­i­tary out of domes­tic polic­ing func­tions and is back­fill­ing those roles with a police force. It also is revamp­ing its bud­get­ing process and remov­ing much of the military’s pri­vate busi­ness influ­ence, and it is putting more sep­a­ra­tion between its offi­cers and pol­i­tics, a senior U.S. defense offi­cial said, speak­ing on back­ground before the vis­it.

The secretary’s vis­it shows the Defense Depart­ment is accept­ing Indonesia’s place as a piv­otal coun­try in the region, the offi­cial said. The coun­try is key to region­al secu­ri­ty because of its strate­gic loca­tion astride a num­ber of key inter­na­tion­al mar­itime straits, par­tic­u­lar­ly the Malac­ca Strait.

Dis­cus­sions here today cen­tered on ways the Unit­ed States can work more close­ly with the Indone­sian mil­i­tary, Gates said, specif­i­cal­ly help­ing the country’s mil­i­tary con­tin­ue its ref­or­ma­tion and devel­op capa­bil­i­ties in the air­lift and mar­itime domains.

Indonesia’s armed forces total about 350,000, mem­bers, accord­ing to U.S. State Depart­ment fig­ures. The army is the largest branch, with about 280,000 active-duty per­son­nel.

The 250,000-member Indone­sian Nation­al Police was a branch of the armed forces for sev­er­al years, but was sep­a­rat­ed from the mil­i­tary in April 1999.

Indone­sia, rebound­ing after a crip­pling finan­cial cri­sis in the late 1990s, has seen a com­mod­i­ty boom, and there is grow­ing self-con­fi­dence with­in in the coun­try. But much of its mil­i­tary equip­ment is old and in need of repair or replace­ment. Gates said U.S. help could come in the form of pro­vid­ing train­ing or equip­ment.

Indone­sia has emerged as the third-largest democ­ra­cy in the world after decades of mil­i­tary-dom­i­nat­ed rule. In Novem­ber 2005, the Unit­ed States nor­mal­ized mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary rela­tions with the coun­try. Gates said the Indone­sian mil­i­tary has become more capa­ble and more pro­fes­sion­al. He laud­ed its peace­keep­ing efforts in Lebanon, Con­go, Liberia, Geor­gia, Nepal and Sudan.

Speak­ing to the Indone­sian Coun­cil on World Affairs at the end of the day, Gates called Indonesia’s shift “remark­able,” con­sid­er­ing it took place against the back­drop of a dev­as­tat­ing tsuna­mi, one of the world’s most severe finan­cial crises, a rise in ter­ror­ist activ­i­ty and a trans­for­ma­tion of both the gov­ern­ment and mil­i­tary.

These inter­nal changes have played out against the back­drop of over­all shifts in the region as a whole, Gates said. Since the end of the Cold War, Asia’s secu­ri­ty envi­ron­ment has under­gone remark­able change, and in recent years, the nations of Asia have, for the most part, achieved unprece­dent­ed wealth and stature as they have forged more mature polit­i­cal, eco­nom­ic and mil­i­tary insti­tu­tions, he said.

As a result, new cen­ters of pow­er have risen along­side new sources of insta­bil­i­ty. Pira­cy, eth­nic strife and pover­ty, as well as emerg­ing ter­ror­ism, pose the region’s threats, Gates said. To com­bat these chal­lenges, coun­tries must work togeth­er, the sec­re­tary said.

“What these chal­lenges have in com­mon is that they sim­ply can­not be over­come by one, or even two coun­tries, no mat­ter how wealthy or pow­er­ful. They require mul­ti­ple nations act­ing with uncom­mon uni­ty devel­op­ing areas where each part­ner can bring its unique capa­bil­i­ties to bear,” Gates said.

Gates went on to say that there has been a shift, as well, in the U.S. defense strat­e­gy in Asia to one that moves away from a per­ma­nent pres­ence and direct action by U.S. forces toward build­ing the capac­i­ty of part­ner nations to bet­ter defend them­selves. He ref­er­enced a mix of mil­i­tary, diplo­mat­ic, cul­tur­al and human­i­tar­i­an efforts.

“In this vein, the Unit­ed States mil­i­tary — even with ongo­ing oper­a­tions in Afghanistan and Iraq — is engaged with more Asian gov­ern­ments doing more things in more con­struc­tive ways than at any time in our his­to­ry,” Gates said.

Dur­ing the speech to the coun­cil, Gates called for an end to the Cold War mod­el of Asian secu­ri­ty that put the Unit­ed States at the cen­ter with a series of bilat­er­al alliances with oth­er coun­tries. He cit­ed the need for mul­ti­lat­er­al alliances instead, in which all coun­tries coop­er­ate.

“This does not mean any weak­en­ing of our bilat­er­al ties, but rather enhanc­ing secu­ri­ty by adding mul­ti­lat­er­al coop­er­a­tion,” Gates said.

This mul­ti­lat­er­al approach, Gates said, will be need­ed to take on the spread of ter­ror­ism and oth­er secu­ri­ty threats.

“We live in a world today where the most press­ing prob­lems con­fronting us, … for the most part, can­not be solved by any sin­gle nation,” Gates said. “And, there­fore, recog­ni­tion that there are a num­ber of pow­er­ful nations and groups of nations that must play a part in solv­ing these prob­lems … is the first step to begin solv­ing them.”

This is the approach the Unit­ed States has tak­en in recent years, Gates said.

“I believe that an under­ly­ing theme of Amer­i­can his­to­ry is that we are com­pelled to defend our secu­ri­ty and our inter­ests in ways that, in the long run, lead to the spread of demo­c­ra­t­ic val­ues and insti­tu­tions,” the sec­re­tary said. “That is to say, the spread of free­dom and secu­ri­ty in places like Indone­sia both man­i­fests our ideals and pro­tects our inter­ests.”

This is Gates’ third stop on a nine-day, around-the-world trip to this region that also will include vis­its to India and Turkey.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)
Pho­to by Tech. Sgt. Jer­ry Mor­ri­son, USAF