National

Army to play bigger role
in combating terrorism

The Indonesian Military (TNI) will have a greater role in domestic security following the signing of an agreement with the nation’s counterterrorism agency, which will allow the Army to help collect information about terror activities.

The National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) and the Army (TNI AD) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on counterterrorism at the former’s headquarters on Thursday.

Under the agreement, soldiers will be allowed to actively assist members of the public in tracing any terror suspects or activities. They will also be permitted to share information regarding alleged terror activities with the National Police.

The agency’s deputy head of prevention, protection and deradicalization, Agus Surya Bakti, said he hoped the Army could easily apply its terrorism prevention program across the country, given the presence of Army command posts at village, subdistrict and regency levels.

“As we know, the Army holds a territorial function that reaches even to the furthest village […] There is an assumption that the BNPT and the National Police are solely responsible for terrorism prevention. The truth, however, is that we are all obliged to play a part,” Agus said after the signing in Central Jakarta.

Following the ceremony, the Army’s territorial assistant, Maj. Gen. Meris Wiryadi, said he would order non-commissioned officers, known as Babinsa, at territorial commands to collaborate with local police forces to introduce the program to the public.

“This MoU provides a legal basis for [the Army] to order its Babinsa to conduct a familiarization program [about terror prevention], in cooperation with local police. Hopefully, we can reduce the movement of terrorists,” he said.

Agus said he also hoped the Army would help curb the distribution of illegal firearms, especially in the nation’s border areas. In recent months, terrorists have used illegal and homemade firearms to launch a wave of fatal attacks against police officers. “In many cases, the firearms have come from the Philippines and Vietnam,” Agus said.

The BNPT will soon sign similar agreements with the National Police and the Home Ministry to synergize the nation’s efforts in tackling terrorism.

The MoU is part of the TNI’s attempt to widen its role to respond to what it says are new kinds of threat to national security.

TNI commander Gen. Moeldoko said during an interview with members of the House of Representatives last month that the country should revisit the concept of national defense with the emergence of new security threats from non-state actors, including terrorism and communal conflicts. He argued that a review was needed, as there were possible security threats in “gray areas” that could be subject to military operations, albeit in a form quite different to all-out war.

“The TNI is concerned about the possible occurrence of asymmetric warfare due to the archipelagic nature of the country — which makes it prone to infiltration, democratization, the pluralistic nature of [our] society and globalization, which has had a multidimensional impact on the country,” he said. “The TNI must be ready for asymmetric conflicts that have unusual, unexpected or irregular characteristics.”

Moeldoko later said that he aimed to form a special force to back up the National Police’s Densus 88 counterterrorism squad in hunting terrorists. The special force will comprise Army, Navy and Air Force personnel.

Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro supported Moeldoko’s plan, saying that the police had failed to fight terrorism alone.

Al Araf, an employee with human rights group Imparsial lambasted the TNI’s increasing role in terrorism prevention, saying it could open the way to abuses of power.

“The agreement will create diverse interpretations that eventually become a basis for the military to abuse its power. The military may end up spying on citizens — that has happened in the past — on the grounds of terrorism prevention,” he said in a telephone interview.

To regulate the military’s role in counterterrorism, Al Araf suggested the government and the House draft a supporting tasks law, as mandated in the 2002 National Defense Law.

“The supporting tasks law would stipulate the situations in which police would seek support from the military. Any military deployment must gain police approval,” he said.

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