Military’s involvement in terror agency dangerous, ICG warns

Military’s involvement in terror agency dangerous, ICG warns
, 27 July 2010


The International Crisis Group (ICG) warned on Monday of possible dangers of military involvement in the newly established National Anti-Terror Agency (BNPT).

ICG director for Southeast Asia Sidney Jones said the danger stemmed from the possibility of “increased competition between the Indonesian Military (TNI) and the police over terrorism in the agency”.

Increased competition may compromise antiterror operations as institutions try to outdo each other or refuse to share information, she said, which would thwart the original purpose of facilitating inter-agency cooperation.

“I think the authority for countering terrorism should remain with the police,” said “The danger is trying to use this agency to find a role for the military in counter-terrorism,” she told The Jakarta Post.

The government set up the agency with a presidential decree early this month. The interim head is Insp. Gen. (ret.) Ansyaad Mbai from the Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Ministry.

In the past, the elite counterterrorism squad was the National Police’s Special Detachment (Densus) 88.

Jones said “the authority for countering terrorism should remain with the police” and it was “ actually a mistake to try to bring the military into an operational role”.

“I don’t think the military should have any role in counterterrorism except under the most extreme conditions,” she said, adding that military involvement could lead to approaching terror like wars.

According to her, the government could avoid such pitfalls by choosing the right people for key positions within the agency.

“I think it is critically important that the head of this agency be a civilian,” she said.

Meanwhile, the “authority for countering terrorism should remain with the police” since they have “shown themselves to be very effective as a law enforcement agency”, she said.

“What I hope is that this agency does not simply become a vehicle to bring in more agencies without increasing effectiveness,” she added.

Between 2003 and 2009, Densus 88 shot dead 40 alleged terrorists during raids and caught 464 suspects. Between January and May this year, they arrested 58 suspects and killed 13 during raids.

Spokesperson for the Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Ministry, Rear Marshall Sagom Tamboen, said the TNI personnel involved in the BNPT would report directly to the agency’s head, cutting structural ties with the TNI.

Sagom said the arrangement would avoid leadership conflicts, adding that personnel outside the military, including Densus 88, would similarly report to the agency’s head.

“However, military personnel’ status as military will remain. Their role in the agency’s various units will depend on the skills they possess,” said, adding that units included those in the field of intelligence, terror and staff.

He said the agency would neither place any quota on the number of personnel from the military or any of the other involved institutions, nor would it allot specific posts for certain institutions.