Turning to the Army to Fight Terrorism

Turning to the Army to Fight Terrorism
, 21 November 2010

 

While the move to involve the Army is largely seen as a positive one, there are concerns that, given the military’s past record of human rights abuses, similar incidences could once again occur. These concerns are legitimate and the Army must convince the public that it has transformed into a professional institution that abides by the laws of the land.

 

 

In the continuing struggle against terrorism, the nation must employ every resource at its disposal. To date, the police’s anti-terror unit, Densus 88, has been chiefly responsible for counterterrorism investigations, raids and arrests.

Starting next year, the new anti-terror school will admit soldiers to its training courses. This is vital for national security, given the Army’s long experience in fighting domestic separatists.

It might be too soon for joint operations, but harnessing the Army’s resources is a vital step in the name of countering terrorism.

Brig. Gen. Boy Salamuddin, executive director of the Jakarta Center for Law Enforcement Cooperation in Semarang, Central Java, hit the mark when he said: “If we don’t maximize the military’s ability in the fight against terror, then we stand to really lose.”

He should know what he is talking about. Boy was chief detective for the Bali Police in 2002 when bombs exploded in a nightclub there, leaving 202 people dead.

The military, especially the Army, has a comprehensive ability to deal with chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats.

In fact, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono initiated greater cooperation between police and the Army in the fight against terrorism when he formed the National Anti-Terrorism Agency (BNPT) in July, and appointed Ansyaad Mbai as its head in September.

The agency, which answers only to the president, is charged with preventing terrorism, protecting civilians, de-radicalizing terrorists and building national preparedness.

As terrorists change their tactics and strategies, the government cannot afford to remain fixed on any particular response.

The country’s security forces must continue to innovate to stay ahead of the terrorists.

As we have witnessed over the past few months, terrorists have shifted their tactics from suicide bombings to armed attacks on public and private institutions.

This represents a major shift as they now target police officers and other public employees.

By involving the Army in the anti-terror fight, the police send a strong message to the terrorists that they are enemies of the state and all available resources will be used to hunt them down and bring them to justice.

While the move to involve the Army is largely seen as a positive one, there are concerns that, given the military’s past record of human rights abuses, similar incidences could once again occur.

These concerns are legitimate and the Army must convince the public that it has transformed into a professional institution that abides by the laws of the land.

Regaining public trust will not be easy.

However, if the Army does play a constructive and positive role and works with the police in halting the terrorists, it will go a long way in winning back the confidence of the people.