Posts made in June, 2014

Prabowo’s Military Record

Posted by on Jun 30, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Prabowo’s Military Record

The trend was clear by the early-1990s. The centrality of the Armed Forces, and especially the Army, to the Soeharto regime had eroded. While the purge of Moerdani loyalists – unofficially known as “de-Benny-isasi” – had started after the November 1991 Santa Cruz incident, the March 1993 mutiny to install Try Sutrisno as vice president marked a turning point for Soeharto. He accelerated the purge and moved to reassert control over the disobedient Armed Forces. At age seventy-two, the President was not inclined to trust any officer as he had once trusted Benny Moerdani, who had become the most powerful and influential Indonesian military leader of his generation. The relationship between the President and General Feisal Tanjung can in no way be compared to the Soeharto-Moerdani relationship. Tanjung was a mere subordinate, where Moerdani had been a trusted confidante and the President’s friend. After Moerdani’s ouster from the cabinet and Vice President Try Sutrisno’s forced installation, military leaders had fewer opportunities to communicate with the President. Aside from a few old and trusted friends, Soeharto was more and more isolated, even from those military leaders he assumed to be loyal. He was under fire from his retired 1945 Generation comrades and suspicious of the younger officer generation, with whom he had no history and limited contact. On July 26, 1993, General Nasution met Soeharto face-to-face for the first time in over two decades during a senior officer reception at Merdeka Palace. According to those present, after the two generals exchanged pleasantries, Nasution reached into his pocket and pulled out a piece of paper with some notes, whereupon Soeharto immediately excused himself.[1] Soeharto took a hands-on role in the military promotion and assignment process, careful to insure no general might become powerful enough to challenge his will. Since the President had no effective way to determine which officers were trustworthy, he tended to rely on the small group of officers he knew – the adjutants and bodyguards, along with the few people who were close to him, like B.J. Habibie and his son-in-law, red beret Colonel Prabowo Subianto. Those advisors collectively favored modernist Muslim officers with respectable Islamic credentials, and opposed the secular-nationalist officers associated with Benny Moerdani. It marked a complete turnabout from the New Order’s early days when secular-nationalist, Javanese abangan and non-Muslim officers had dominated military leadership. Originally named Prabowo Djojohadikusumo after his father, noted economist Professor Sumitro Djojohadikusumo, young Prabowo took an early interest in a military career. While still a youth, he changed his name to Prabowo Subianto (a common practice in the Javanese culture) after his late uncle, Subianto Djojohadikusumo, a cadet at the Tangerang Military Academy during the Revolution, who had died along with several dozen fellow cadets during a failed attempt to seize Japanese weapons on January 25, 1946.[2] Through his father, an Indonesian Socialist Party (PSI) official who had joined the Sumatran PRRI rebellion in the late-1950s, Prabowo established early ties to modernist Muslim Masjumi leaders. Soeharto rehabilitated the elder Sumitro after more than a decade in exile with his family and gave him a cabinet post, allowing Prabowo, a young...

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The Thinking General

Posted by on Jun 22, 2014 in Uncategorized | 4 comments

The Thinking General

Born in Pacitan, East Java in September 1949, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono celebrated his fifty-fifth birthday a few weeks before his inauguration as Indonesia’s sixth President. He was the only child of an army noncommissioned officer in the Brawijaya territorial organization, Raden Soekotjo, and maternal grandson to the founder of the local Tremas Pesantren (a Nahdlatul Ulamaboarding school). Known as “Sus” or Bambang to friends, he was cadet corps commander and top graduate from his 1973 academy class. Yudhoyono was engaged to and later married Military Academy Governor Major General Sarwo Edhie Wibowo’s well-educated and charming daughter, Kristiani Herawati (Ani). Fatefully thrown into the national spotlight during the 1965-1966 crisis, as Army Commando Regiment (RPKAD) Commander Sarwo Edhie had led the massacre of communists on Java and Bali, laying a bloody foundation for Soeharto’s New Order. Marriage into the legendary (some would say notorious) general’s family reinforced the young officer’s Javanese sense of destiny. Yudhoyono reportedly wanted to follow his father-in-law into the red berets. Since no officers from the 1973 class were commissioned into the Special Forces, he opted for the green berets and served exclusively in Kostrad units until posted to Army Headquarters in 1981. Recognized as bright and capable, his early career suffered, ironically, due to his status as Sarwo Edhie’s son-in-law. Soeharto insiders Ali Moertopo, Yoga Sugomo and Benny Moerdani held a grudge against the popular and charismatic red beret. As Armed Forces Commander, Moerdani allegedly had Yudhoyono sidelined to unimportant positions. Sarwo Edhie died in November 1989. With patronage from Generals Edi Sudrajat and Feisal Tanjung, Yudhoyono’s career took off after Benny Moerdani departed the scene in the early-1990s. The two red beret generals were sympathetic to Sarwo Edhie’s plight and recognized his son-in-law had been treated unfairly. After graduating from the Army Staff and Command School (Seskoad) in 1989, once more at the top of his class, Yudhoyono was selected to attend the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. He worked as a speech writer for Army Chief Edi Sudrajat and briefly as his staff coordinator when Sudrajat became Armed Forces Commander in February 1993. Sudrajat intervened to select Yudhoyono as commander of the Jakarta-based Kostrad 17th Infantry Brigade, the Army’s most prestigious brigade-level unit, succeeding presidential son-in-law Prabowo Subianto. Yudhoyono advanced rapidly through a series of key postings. He was operations assistant in the Jakarta Command in 1994-1995 and spent a few months as Yogyakarta Resort Commander, where he established contacts with academics, student activists, journalists and civil society groups. Yudhoyono earned his first star during 1994 during a one-year posting as Chief Military Observer with UN Forces in Bosnia. He was chief of staff in the Jakarta Command during the July 1996 assault on PDI headquarters, South Sumatra Sriwijaya Regional Commander from August 1996 to August 1997, Armed Forces Assistant for Social and Political Affairs from August 1997 to March 1998, and then Chief of Staff for Social and Political Affairs (Kasospol) – later re-designated Chief of Staff for Territorial Affairs (Kaster) – from March 1998 to November 1999, throughout the period of repressive operations in East Timor and the Maluku...

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Sarwo Edhie Wibowo

Posted by on Jun 22, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Sarwo Edhie Wibowo

Colonel Sarwo Edhie Wibowo, the bold and charismatic Army Paracommando Regiment (RPKAD) leader, fit perfectly the traditional Javanese jago (fighting cock or local strongman) profile. The jago was usually someone from the lower classes, often a scoundrel, a ruffian, a bully, but a person considered bold and brave, willing to take a risk and eager to fight for a cause. As a child, Sarwo Edhie dreamed of becoming a soldier and studied the traditional Javanese martial art, silat. He joined the Peta Homeland Defenders force during the Japanese occupation and formed his own People’s Security Body (BKR) battalion after the war. When his battalion disbanded, Sarwo Edhie joined hometown compatriot Ahmad Yani’s battalion in Magelang. Sarwo Edhie and Yani (three years his elder) came from Purworejo. They had served together in the Peta Battalion at Prembun, twenty-five kilometers west of Purworejo. They belonged to the same elite Dutch-speaking clique within the Army. Sarwo Edhie fought under Yani during actions against British and Dutch forces in post-war Magelang and Ambarawa. Through their shared experience during the subsequent independence struggle, the two men developed a close personal bond. [1] Ahmad Yani went on to become Army Commander. Sarwo Edhie continued to serve in the Central Java Diponegoro Division as a company commander in Regiment 13 from 1951 to 1954 and Battalion 439 Commander from 1954 to 1958. He took part in operations against Darul Islam militants in Central Java and Permesta rebels in North Sulawesi. With assistance from his old friend, then-Army Operations Deputy Colonel Ahmed Yani, Sarwo Edhie attended the U.S. Army Infantry Officer Advanced Course at Fort Benning, Georgia in 1958. He served briefly as deputy training regiment commander at the National Military Academy in Magelang before Colonel Yani helped get him assigned to command the RPKAD Paracommando School in Bandung during 1959. It was a controversial posting because Sarwo Edhie had not been through RPKAD training and had not served with the red berets. [2] Even more controversially, after Ahmad Yani became Army Commander in July 1962, he advanced Sarwo Edhie to RPKAD Deputy under Colonel Moeng Parhadimoeljo. Sarwo Edhie attended the Australian General Staff College at Queenscliff in 1963-1964 and succeeded Moeng as RPKAD Commander in late-1964. He was promoted over more senior and arguably better qualified officers. Many among the red berets resented Yani’s perceived favoritism toward his hometown comrade. [3] Sarwo Edhie masterminded the daring April 1965 infiltration mission behind enemy lines at Long Bawan, about three kilometers from the Sarawak-East Kalimantan border. It was one of the few successful Indonesian military operations during the low-intensity Confrontation with Malaysia. Much like Nasution, distraught over his daughter’s death, Sarwo Edhie was motivated by revenge for the murder of his friend and mentor Army Commander Ahmad Yani on October 1, 1965. He took it as a calling to eradicate the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) in retribution for the murder of Yani and other senior officers. Sarwo Edhie was on good terms with Soeharto, having served under him in Central Java during the Revolution, during counterinsurgency operations in South Sulawesi in 1950 and in Diponegoro Division in the...

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Operation Seroja

Posted by on Jun 16, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Operation Seroja

Soeharto and a handful of senior officers determined Indonesia’s Timor policy, deliberately excluding Adam Malik and his Foreign Ministry.[1] Soeharto placed his trust in Hankam Intelligence Assistant Major General Benny Moerdani who, in turn, largely excluded Armed Forces Commander Maraden Panggabean and Army Chief Makmun Murod from operational planning. Moerdani’s Seroja was a joint operation, involving units from Kostrad 17th and 18th Airborne Brigades, virtually the Army’s entire Kopassandha red beret force, elite Air Force quick reaction troops, a marine amphibious infantry brigade, navy warships and nine C-130 Hercules transport aircraft. The Kogasgab task force headquarters in West Timor under Brigadier General Soeweno was in charge of the overall operation. The invasion plan called for a three-pronged attack along the northern Portuguese Timor coast: a land force advancing from West Timor across the border at Motaain-Batugade; a combined parachute assault and amphibious landing in Dili; and, another combined parachute assault and amphibious landing further east at Baucau, the territory’s second largest town. The red berets played a major role in both parachute assaults. The three forces were to push inland and southward, linking up for what Indonesian military leaders expected to be a swift and easy victory.[2] That would not be the case. Despite employment of Indonesia’s best troops, the invasion was clumsy, poorly coordinated and badly executed. It had been over fifteen years since Indonesian forces last engaged in conventional military operations against separatist rebels in Sumatra and Sulawesi, and a decade since the irregular guerilla incursions during the West Irian and Malaysia campaigns – hardly sterling examples of professional military operations in their own rights. Most Indonesian officers below lieutenant colonel had no combat experience. Units had rarely exercised above battalion-level. The Kostrad 17th Airborne Brigade conducted a large airborne-combined arms exercise in South Sumatra during February 1974. Even then, observers viewed the unusual large-scale exercise as evidence of Indonesian preparations to invade Portuguese Timor.[3] The Seroja task force had little opportunity to train together before the combined assault. Planning and preparations were haphazard. The parallel and competing missions for the invasion and the Flamboyan cross-border campaign created conflicts. Designated forces and equipment were borrowed to support the ongoing infiltration operations. The chain-of-command was not clearly defined for the joint forces involved, something that caused confusion before the operation and tremendous difficulties afterward. Although Kogasgab headquarters in West Timor was in charge, there was no unified chain-of-command among the combined Dili invasion force, which included army Kopassandha and Kostrad elements, plus Air Force, Navy and Marines. In particular, the lack of a senior army officer in charge of deploying Kopassandha and Kostrad units created mass confusion before the Dili assault.[4] Indonesian maps were inadequate, and intelligence about enemy dispositions, terrain and local conditions poor, and in some cases simply wrong. For instance, the Dili parachute assault was constrained because of reports the Komoro River, west of town, was swollen, impassable and full of man-eating crocodiles. The anticipated Komoro flooding forced planners into a fatal decision to drop the parachute force directly into Dili. Later, it was noted that the river was actually low, easily forded and there...

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The Big Wink

Posted by on Jun 16, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

The Big Wink

After the Balibo killings, Indonesia slowed cross-border operations and accepted a Portuguese invitation for talks in Rome on November 1 and 2. Portuguese officials informed Foreign Minister Adam Malik they would seek fresh negotiations with the Timorese parties and provided assurances they would not transfer sovereignty to Fretilin. Jose Ramos-Horta led a Fretilin delegation in visits to Hanoi and Peking, intensifying Indonesian concerns about direct communist intervention. A Cuban military task force landed in Angola in early-November to support leftist MPLA (People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola) guerillas, again setting off alarms in Jakarta and western capitals. Fretilin petitioned the United Nations on November 24 to compel Indonesian forces to withdraw. When it became apparent an Indonesian invasion was imminent (and hoping for international intervention), Fretilin leader Xavier do Amaral unilaterally declared the “Democratic Republic of East Timor” on November 28. The following day in Balibo, Opsus Chief of Staff Colonel Aloysius Sugiyanto organized a UDT-Apodeti counter-declaration that East Timor had integrated with Indonesia. Soeharto simply could not tolerate a turbulent leftist state – no matter how small – in the heart of the Indonesian archipelago. “After Fretilin’s independence declaration, Soeharto held a meeting with his generals on 3 December 1975. While no firm order may have been given at that meeting – this, after all, was Soeharto, who rarely gave direct instructions – it was around this time that the green light was given for the Ministry of Defence and Security to take over East Timor.”[1] Adam Malik flew to the border and told a crowd of Timorese refugees the time for diplomacy had passed. On December 4, a spokesman in Jakarta declared Indonesia had to defend majority interests in East Timor. The government quietly advised foreign diplomats to evacuate their nationals from Dili.[2] Indonesian leaders settled on December 7, 1975 as D-day for Operation Seroja (Lotus), delaying the invasion until after a December 6 state visit by U.S. President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Ford and Kissinger were aware of Jakarta’s advanced military preparations. Soeharto had discussed the situation with Ford during a state visit to the United States four months earlier. During the December 6 meeting in Jakarta, Soeharto made only vague reference to possible Indonesian military intervention. “We want your understanding if we deem it necessary to take rapid or drastic action.” Ford also spoke in generalities. “We will understand and will not press you on the issue. We understand the problem you have and the intentions you have.” Secretary Kissinger pragmatically pointed out, “You appreciate that the use of U.S.-made arms could create problems” and added, “It is important that whatever you do succeeds quickly. … We understand your problem and the need to move quickly but I am only saying that it would be better if it were done after we returned.” Soeharto elaborated, “There will probably be a small guerilla war. The local kings are important, however, and they are on our side. The UDT represents former government officials and Fretilin represents former soldiers. They are infected the same as is the Portuguese Army with communism.”[3] Outside the...

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