Inter Press Network

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Intelligence Brief: Nepal

Drafted By: Dr. Michael A. Weinstein

Nepal, landlocked and bordered by the rising Asian powers of India and China, has become the object of competition among its neighbors as the country has descended into severe instability. The only Hindu kingdom in the world, with a generally impoverished population of 27.7 million people and few strategic resources, Nepal interests New Delhi and Beijing as a geostrategic prize in the new "great game" for spheres of influence in Central Asia. [See: The 'Great Game' Heats Up in Central Asia]

Except for a brief period of parliamentary government after World War II, Nepal was an absolute monarchy until 1989, when King Birendra, bowing to pressure from a coalition of political parties and social movements, instituted a constitutional monarchy. The new parliamentary system was riven by fractious partisanship, failure of leadership, corruption and the persistence of poverty. In 1996, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (C.P.N.(M.)) abandoned parliamentarism and initiated an armed "people's war" in the countryside aimed at overthrowing the constitutional monarchy and establishing a "socialist republic."

The Maoist insurgency gained support among the 80 percent of Nepalese living in rural areas and now is estimated to control up to 70 percent of the countryside. The campaign to suppress the insurgency by the Royal Nepalese Army (R.N.A.) has been marked by brutality and torture on both sides, most recently documented by U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak in a September 16, 2005 press conference following his investigative trip to Nepal.

A further plunge into instability came in February 2005, when King Gyanendra, who had assumed the throne after the heir apparent had killed his parents and himself, dissolved parliament and declared a state of emergency, suspending civil liberties, imposing press censorship and banning opposition demonstrations, in the name of fighting the insurgency more effectively and suppressing corruption. [See: "Sacking the Government Brings International Attention to Nepal"]

Gyanendra's seizure of absolute power has not calmed Nepal's political turmoil and has led to international censure, including the withdrawal of military aid to Kathmandu by New Delhi and Washington. On April 30, Gyanendra lifted the state of emergency, but did not surrender control and has not moved to re-establish the parliamentary system. Since then, Nepal has been in a state of political flux, in which the three parties to the domestic conflict -- the king, the Maoists and the parliamentary parties -- have maneuvered for advantage in an intensely uncertain situation.

Nepalese Instability: Tri-partite Conflict

The crisis precipitated by Gyanendra's February seizure of absolute power threw the parliamentary parties into the position of either attempting to mount resistance in order to recoup their losses or accepting defeat. Particularly after the king revoked the state of emergency in April, they chose the former, pursuing a three-pronged campaign to delegitimize his rule and render him unable to govern. Forming the same kind of coalition that had forced the institution of a parliamentary system in 1989, they subsumed their rivalries under a common program of restoring democracy.

As Gyanendra remained unyielding, the parliamentary parties radicalized their positions. The crisis ratcheted up to a higher level, when, in late August, the Nepali Congress Party (N.C.P.) -- the largest parliamentary grouping, which has close ties to New Delhi -- announced that it had decided to delete the goal of achieving a constitutional monarchy from its constitution. The Communist Party of Nepal (U.M.L.), the second biggest grouping, had already abandoned constitutional monarchy for a "democratic republic."

In response to the parliamentary parties' break with the monarchy, the Maoist insurgency announced a three-month cease fire and has begun releasing some of its R.N.A. prisoners, although Nepalese media report that it continues to carry out abductions of school teachers and students for "re-education." Registering a shift in the balance of power, the seven-party parliamentary coalition announced on September 16 that it would form a team to negotiate independently with the Maoists. The coalition made it clear that talks were premised on the insurgency ending violence against civilians and that the Maoists would not be permitted to join the coalition unless they laid down their arms.

Along with abandoning their commitment to monarchy and moving towards the Maoists, the parliamentary parties, with the support of student and other civil-society groups, initiated an ongoing series of street demonstrations in Kathmandu, aimed at forcing Gyanendra to restore democracy, that have attracted up to 7,000 participants and have met with mass arrests -- including temporary detention of top party leaders -- and often violent suppression by government security forces.

Faced with international isolation, the collaboration of the Maoists and the parliamentary parties and the emergence of "people power," Gyanendra has held fast to his refusal to institute a cease fire to match the Maoist's initiative and has urged the parliamentary parties to negotiate with him.

Each actor in the tri-partite conflict is playing a risky game with uncertain results.

The Maoists, who have used previous cease fires to rearm and regroup, are growing increasingly confident that their people's war strategy of surrounding Nepal's cities and precipitating urban insurrection is succeeding. Their commitment to a future parliamentary regime is at best suspect.

The parliamentary parties hope to emerge as victors by playing both sides against the middle, counting on the support of New Delhi and its Western allies, and on people power.

Gyanendra is counting on the continued backing of the R.N.A., military aid from Beijing to make up for New Delhi's suspension and residual popular commitment to the monarchy.

At present, it is impossible to predict who will emerge on top or whether there will eventually be a compromise between two or among all of the parties.

The Bottom Line

New Delhi, which counts Nepal within its sphere of influence -- due to its preponderant economic power in the country, cultural affinities and strategic advantages -- has been most severely impacted by the crisis. Indian analysts report on a power struggle in New Delhi between the Ministry of External Affairs, which backs the parliamentary parties and their efforts to negotiate with the Maoists, and the Home and Defense Ministries, which place their bets on Gyanendra, fearing a Maoist takeover and a spread of Maoist insurgencies into India, exacerbated by border insecurity. Thus far, New Delhi has chosen to back the parliamentary parties, but there is no assurance that the strategy will succeed or that it can be pursued effectively given intra-governmental conflicts.

As New Delhi faces hard choices, Beijing has seized the opportunity to move in and offer Kathmandu arms deals, one of which has already been signed. Islamabad is rumored to be doing the same. Washington and London have been left with no option but to back New Delhi as they try to pressure Gyanendra to restore constitutional monarchy and accept international mediation to end the Maoist insurgency.

The latest moves in the new great game highlight the uncertainties and shifting opportunity structures that emerge when strategically valuable, weak states begin to implode. Beijing has nothing to lose by backing Gyanendra and will win big if he holds on to power. New Delhi, which allowed the situation to get out of control, faces the possible diminution of its influence. As the crisis has deepened, New Delhi has sent troops to Indian states bordering Nepal to contain an escalated conflict.

Uncertainty is the watchword in Nepal, where much depends on how the parliamentary coalition plays its hand as it seeks to finesse the Maoists and the king.

Al-Qaeda's Proliferating Ideology

Drafted By:Erich Marquardt

The July 7, 2005 attacks in London served as reminders that there is no end in sight to the current campaign by Islamists against the United States and its allies. The attacks were committed by British citizens, some of whom were raised in the country. This fact is important since it displays how segments of the British Muslim population became so alienated by British foreign policy that they contributed to al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's movement against the United States and its allies.

Furthermore, the strikes came after similar attacks in Madrid, where on May 11, 2004, 191 people were killed and more than 600 wounded when ten bombs were detonated on the city's train line. Spain has held many suspects in these attacks; some are Moroccan, others Tunisian, but all are Muslim.

If attacks such as these continue, it will mark al-Qaeda's success at listing an accurate set of grievances against the West that many Muslims share. By exploiting those who agree with this set of grievances, al-Qaeda is bound to organize, and, more importantly, inspire segments of the Muslim population to take violent action against the U.S. and its allies. [See: The Threat of Al-Qaeda and the Islamic Revolutionary Movement]

Implications of the London Attacks

The July 7 attacks in London were coordinated effectively, with multiple militants exploding four bombs within an hour's time frame. Three of the bombs struck underground trains, while the last bomb destroyed one of London's trademark double-decker busses. The attacks occurred in downtown London and sent a message to many governments that similar style incidents could occur anywhere. The attacks left some 50 dead and hundreds injured. Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades, an Islamist group that was formed in 2001, claimed responsibility for the actions. [See: "Intelligence Brief: Islamist Terrorism in Europe"]

Two weeks after the July 7 attacks, Muslim militants targeted London's transportation system again -- the Brigades also claimed responsibility for these attacks. Where the July 7 militants succeeded, the July 21 militants failed. The July 21 attacks targeted the London transportation system yet none of the bombs detonated properly and there were no serious casualties. Indeed, one of the suspects, Hussain Osman -- also known as Hamdi Issac -- argues that the July 21 attacks were merely "copycat" attacks intended to foment fear and panic, but not to actually kill anyone.

London investigators have also not been able to uncover any connection between the July 7 attackers -- who are believed to have died in the attacks -- and the July 21 attackers. The July 7 attackers, for instance, were of Pakistani descent, while the July 21 attackers were African. Investigators have not ruled out a connection yet. More importantly, investigators believe that the two groups of militants had no organizational relationship with al-Qaeda. This development, if it is true, further highlights how bin Laden's rhetoric has emboldened Muslims across the world who agree with his argument of the need for a "defensive jihad" against the U.S. and its allies. [See: "The Threat of Al-Qaeda and the Islamic Revolutionary Movement"]

If there were no organizational ties to al-Qaeda, the London attacks signify the difficulties in preventing such acts in the future since there is no one group to infiltrate and eliminate. For instance, while the latest attacks were claimed by the Brigades, it is not clear whether the organization had any real role in the operations.

Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades

The Brigades were formed in 2001 after the death of al-Qaeda leader Abu Hafs al-Masri -- known as Muhammad Atef -- in Afghanistan; the organization's title also bears his name. Their first attributed attack occurred on March 9, 2004, when two suicide bombers detonated themselves in Istanbul, killing one person and injuring five others. Then, on May 11, 2004, the group claimed responsibility for the terror attack on Madrid's transportation system, where 191 people were killed and more than 600 wounded when ten bombs were detonated on the train line. The Brigades claimed that the strike was in response to Spain's military support of the U.S.-led occupation in Iraq.

However, it is not clear how involved the Brigades were in all of these incidents; indeed, many of its claims have been proven false. For instance, the organization claimed responsibility for the August 5, 2004 bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Jakarta, in addition to the power blackout in August 2003 that affected the northeast United States; both claims turned out to be false. Because of these inconsistencies, it is possible that a figure within the organization lays claim to attacks in which the group had no role, simply to promote the notion that the organization is an organized and lethal force.

The veracity of the Brigades' claims are important, considering that after the London attacks the organization released a statement giving Italy, Denmark and the Netherlands an August 15 deadline to withdraw troops from Iraq. Failure to meet the deadline, the organization argued, would result in assaults on these countries by Islamist militants. This deadline has concerned Italy greatly, since the country fears that its support for the U.S.-led war in Iraq has made it a high target for Islamists.

Concern in Italy

Italians fear that members of their own Muslim population could follow al-Qaeda's ideology and launch an attack on Italian soil. On July 12, for instance, the Italian military intelligence agency S.I.S.M.I. released an alarming report where it stated that some 300 Islamist suicide fighters successfully reached Iraq from other countries -- three of them were proven to have come from Italy. This knowledge is concerning and embarrassing for the Italian government, as it sheds doubt on Rome's ability to combat internal militants since it cannot even prevent them from leaving Italy to fight in Iraq.

However, even if the Brigades does not have the operational capacity that it proclaims, Italy's support of the U.S. still makes it a target for other Islamist militants, and the government is aware of this. The success of the July 7 London attacks, and even the fear caused by the failed July 21 attacks, prodded Rome to action, and in recent days it has taken serious measures against potential Islamists within its borders.

On August 15, Italian police announced that more than 100 suspected Islamists had been arrested, and that Rome would expel hundreds more; the action is part of Italy's anti-terror sweep that is now possible due to legislation passed after the London attacks giving the Italian police more power. According to the Italian Interior Ministry, police targeted "Islamic gathering places: call centers, Internet points, Islamic butcher shops and money transfer businesses."

The ministry also stated that it ordered more than 700 people to leave Italy for violating immigration laws. Also on August 15, the ministry stated that its current intelligence can "confirm that an elevated risk for a terrorist attack in our country remains." As the September 11, 2001 anniversary draws near, the Italian government is being extra vigilant in case militants are planning to launch an attack on that day in order to tie special significance to their actions.

Denmark and the Netherlands

Denmark is also a country on the Brigades' hit list. Some 500 Danish troops are in Iraq fighting alongside U.S.-led forces. Islam is now the second largest religion in Denmark, making up about five percent of the population.

In recent weeks, Danish police have been very visible in the country's capital, Copenhagen, and have been especially vigilant in protecting the city's public transportation system.

While it has not responded with the same vigor as Rome, Copenhagen has taken action against some Muslim extremist groups. Just recently, for instance, Fadi Abdullatif, spokesman for the Danish wing of Hizb ut-Tahrir -- a radical Islamist group -- was arrested due to his threats against the Danish government. Such rhetoric was seen in a Hizb ut-Tahrir handout, distributed in Denmark, that said, "So, travel to help your brothers in Fallujah and exterminate your rulers if they block your way."

The Netherlands was also threatened with the August 15 deadline. However, the Netherlands withdrew its troops even before the threat was levied. Nevertheless, the country feels that it could be next in an attack, especially since it has large Moroccan and Turkish communities that have not been completely integrated with Dutch society.


It is difficult to draw conclusions regarding the Islamic revolutionary movement. A logical assessment is that U.S. military operations against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan scattered an already relatively primitive organization. Continued U.S. vigilance in that country and elsewhere will make it difficult for al-Qaeda to orchestrate any large-scale attacks against the United States, or even its major European allies.

Yet, because of al-Qaeda's attractive ideology, similar attacks such as those that occurred in London and Madrid, in addition to those that have been executed in other capitals around the world, will continue. In these cases, militant individuals or Muslim war veterans will be drawn together to undertake the planning and execution of attacks against the interests of the U.S. and its allies. These individuals and groups may have no organizational relationship with al-Qaeda, but agree with bin Laden's rhetoric against the West and are willing to use violence to further this goal.

While it is possible to prevent al-Qaeda from developing into a larger and more sophisticated organization, it is less possible to prevent small-scale attacks from unknown and unidentified militants who develop plans to attack the West with the motive being equal to a religious and political grievance. Preventing these attacks will require the creation of a security state, a possibility that is not likely in Western countries. Of course, as long as vigilance remains high, it is also unlikely that Muslim militants will be able to execute a massive and sustained terror campaign. However, such knowledge is not especially reassuring to the West as it only takes one lucky and well-placed strike to cause a major catastrophe.

Examining the Threats to Indonesia's National Interests

Drafted By:Erich Marquardt

With 210 million people, Indonesia is the world's fourth most populous state and possesses Southeast Asia's strongest military. Consisting of more than 17,000 islands, spanning from the east of Malaysia to the western portion of the island of New Guinea, Indonesia controls critical sea lanes and airways, making it a strategic regional state in Southeast Asia. Ruled by authoritarian military leaders since its independence from the Netherlands in 1949, Indonesia was a strong ally of the West during the Cold War and an adversary to communism. Throughout this period, the military was the dominant political force in the country and kept a tight rein on political power, imprisoning and killing political dissidents to eliminate threats to its rule.

After the end of successive military dictatorships, first by General Sukarno from 1945 to 1967 and then by General Suharto from 1967 to 1998, the government of Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie agreed to economic liberalization policies in addition to lifting controls on labor unions, political parties and the media. Indonesia's first nationwide elections after the successive military dictatorships of Sukarno and Suharto took place in June 1999; since these elections, Indonesia has seen peaceful transfers of political power.

As Jakarta continues to struggle with political stability, it faces a number of threats to its interests. It has strived to retain its territorial integrity, fighting off separatist rebels in Aceh and Papua provinces; it has suffered from Islamist violence, best displayed during the October 2002 terror attack on a Bali nightclub that killed 202 people; the present civilian government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has tried to limit the power of Indonesia's most dominant faction, the military; and it must prepare to adapt to the changing security arrangements in East Asia due to the rising status of China as a regional power. How the present government in Jakarta handles these significant threats to its interests will determine the future shape of Indonesia's internal and external security disposition.

Threats of Separatism in Aceh and Papua Provinces

In Indonesia's Aceh province, located on the northernmost part of the island of Sumatra, separatist rebels of the Free Aceh Movement, known as Gerakin Aceh Merdeka (G.A.M.), have been fighting the Indonesian government for 30 years. No stranger to separatism, Jakarta fought a recent losing battle against separatists on the eastern portion of the island of Timor, known as East Timor.

The conflict in East Timor culminated in January 1999 when the Indonesian government of Habibie agreed with a U.N. process to allow the East Timorese to vote on independence. Approximately 98 percent of registered voters took part in the election, and 78.5 percent of those voters called for independence from Indonesia. The Indonesian Defense Forces, or Tentara Nasional Indonesia (T.N.I.), in an attempt to influence the election, and in retaliation to the final result, responded roughly, causing much violence and destruction. Indeed, the attacks against the East Timorese were so harsh that it critically affected Indonesia's relations with other states, resulting in the U.S. Congress severing all military ties with its once strong Cold War ally. While Indonesia was forced to relinquish sovereignty in East Timor, it does not plan on surrendering sovereignty elsewhere in its island chain, such as in the provinces of Aceh and Papua.

More independent than other parts of Indonesia, and more Islamic in character, Aceh never fully submitted to Dutch rule. After Jakarta took control of the province as part of its independence from the Netherlands, separatist tension remained, heightened by the fact that Aceh is abundant with such natural resources as timber and natural gas; these resources have been used by the central government in Jakarta, creating animosity among the more separatist elements of the population in Aceh who feel that their resources are being exploited.

G.A.M. calls for an independent and Islamic state and uses military force to agitate against the centralized rule of Jakarta. In addition to targeting Indonesian troops, the organization has attacked such international economic interests in the region as Exxon Mobil's natural gas facilities in Aceh. The movement is believed to have received funding and equipment from Iran and Libya; however, most of its arms are thought to come from sources in the region.

In response to G.A.M.'s insurgency, the Indonesian military frequently uses brutal tactics to destroy the organization's resolve. Human rights groups accuse the military of using tactics of abduction, rape, torture and mass killings against G.A.M. members and alleged supporters; as stated by the New York-based organization Human Rights Watch, "Substantial evidence from several reliable sources, including Indonesia's own National Commission on Human Rights, establishes that Indonesian security forces have engaged in extra-judicial executions, forced disappearances, torture, beatings, arbitrary arrests and detentions, and drastic limits on freedom of movement in Aceh."

Nevertheless, T.N.I.'s actions in Aceh have managed to push the rebels out of major cities and into the more rural areas of the province. While it appears that G.A.M. has been weakened, it still exists as an organization and continues to launch scattered attacks on Indonesian interests.

Indeed, G.A.M. just completed negotiations with the Indonesian government in Helsinki, mediated by former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari. As recently stated by Ahtisaari, "Issues discussed included special autonomy or, as proposed by G.A.M., self-government; amnesty and other measures to facilitate an agreement; security arrangements; monitoring of the implementation of the commitments; and timetable."

At the end of the talks, both sides came to common agreement over some of the key issues involving the conflict. G.A.M. publicly stated that it would drop its quest for independence in exchange for Aceh's greater autonomy from Jakarta. G.A.M. and Jakarta have agreed to a third round of discussions, planned for the middle of April.

On the western portion of the island of New Guinea, T.N.I. has engaged separatist rebels of the Free Papua Movement, known as the Organisasi Papua Merdeka (O.P.M.). O.P.M. is a political organization, with a military wing, that fights for independence and autonomy for the indigenous people of West Papua. Not a major threat to Jakarta, O.P.M. has engaged in military struggles with T.N.I., which reacts with a heavy hand, seen through the actions by the KOPASSUS, the Indonesian special forces unit. Human Rights Watch argues that "disproportionate reprisals against civilians and suspected separatists [occur]. Arbitrary detention, torture, disappearances, and arson are widespread in this region of Indonesia."

Successive governments in Jakarta, and especially the highly nationalistic T.N.I., have as a major policy goal the preservation of Indonesia's current territorial integrity. After the loss of East Timor in 1999, Jakarta has worked to prevent the fragmentation of its territory, an often difficult task due to the spread-out nature of the country's islands. Both the United States and China, two states with influence in the region, have supported Indonesia in these efforts since a fragmented Indonesia would create risk for the stability of the straits. Ralph Boyce, the U.S. ambassador to Indonesia, explained this risk, telling the U.S. Congress in July 2001, "However, the flip side, which is instability in the world's fourth most populous nation, would threaten not only Indonesia's immediate neighbors, but also our own strategic and regional objectives.

Islamist Violence

Indonesia's large Muslim population makes it vulnerable to advances by Islamist organizations to recruit and train militants to launch attacks against the United States and Western interests. There are active, militant Islamist organizations operating in the region, and attacks against Indonesian and Western interests have already transpired.

On October 12, 2002, Indonesia suffered from a terror attack on a nightclub in the resort-city of Bali. The bomb blasts killed 202 people, many of them Westerners flocking to Indonesia's beautiful tourist destinations. The attacks were launched by Jemaah Islamiyah. On August 5, 2003, the group attacked the J.W. Marriott hotel in Jakarta, killing a dozen people. Finally, on September 9, 2004, nine people were killed when a car bomb detonated outside the Australian Embassy in Jakarta, injuring almost 200 people -- Indonesian authorities attributed this attack to Jemaah Islamiyah, although it is not clear if the organization claimed responsibility.

As these attacks demonstrate, militants have been able to launch successful, high-profile attacks on Western interests within Indonesia. The United States is concerned that Islamist organizations could increase their ranks and strength in Indonesia and launch even more debilitating attacks. Because Indonesia controls some of the world's most trafficked and vital sea lanes, it could provide a lucrative opportunity for Islamist organizations to cripple the global economy. As clearly defined by the U.S. State Department, "Indonesia remains a linchpin of regional security due to its strategic location astride a number of key international maritime straits."

For instance, the Straits of Malacca are a key sea lane for the transport of goods, as they link together the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Twenty-five percent of world trade passes through the Straits. Some 80 percent of Japan's oil is brought through the Straits, and as China increases its energy consumption and purchases of oil from the Middle East, it too sees the majority of its energy traffic pass through these critical sea lanes.

Furthermore, due to the dynamics of the Straits -- shallow reefs and narrow channels -- sea traffic is slow, meaning that any major attack would be extremely damaging. After all, the Straits are already a major target of pirates; the International Maritime Bureau ranks the Straits as the second hardest hit piracy hotspot on the globe. Some potential attack scenarios include the hijacking of an oil tanker and using it in conjunction with explosives to create an enormous bomb that could be used to attack coastal regions. The environmental disaster alone from the explosion of an oil tanker would be tremendous. Attacked in a narrow part of the channel, the oil spillage could be enough to block the route for other ships, having a significant effect on the global economic market.

For this reason, the United States, and its allies in the region, has worked with Indonesian security forces to analyze these scenarios and devise counter-terrorism techniques to combat their realization. China, too, has given assistance to Jakarta, offering to send military equipment at reduced rates for use by the T.N.I.

The Indonesian Military

The Indonesian military is the strongest power faction in Indonesia. The country was ruled by military leaders until 1998, and while a civilian government now rules in Jakarta, that government is handicapped by the entrenched power of the military. In the words of Juwono Sudarsono, the civilian minister of defense, the military "retains the real levers of power. … From the political point of view, the military remains the fulcrum of Indonesia." To highlight how independent of the central government the military is, it is estimated that almost one-third of the T.N.I. budget derives from the Indonesian government, with the rest of the budget coming from unaccountable sources; Dana R. Dillon from the Washington-based Heritage Foundation claims that these profits emanate from "illegal logging, poaching, drug smuggling, and protection rackets."

Until 1998, Indonesia was ruled by generals; this rule fostered an atmosphere where members of the military were exempt from many of the norms and laws affecting civilian society. Furthermore, under the concept of dwifungsi, the military was able to assert itself in social and political affairs. Dwifungsi reserved political posts within the government for military officers. This created a condition where officers served in all levels of the government, even in parliament, causing the entire government to be under the oversight of the military.

The system of dwifungsi is no longer active and a number of reforms have been pushed through to try to limit its past effects. For instance, military officers must now resign from the armed forces before filling a position in the civilian government. The police, too, have been separated from the military. Nevertheless, the atmosphere prevails today, seen through the many human rights offenses committed by the T.N.I., and shown by military leaders who are still unwilling to give up their entrenched positions of power to a civilian government.

Up until the early 1990s, T.N.I. and the U.S. military enjoyed good relations. According to the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency, from 1950 to 1993 the United States trained more than 8,000 Indonesian officers in U.S. military schools, in addition to providing Indonesia with hundreds of millions of dollars in military assistance grants, loans and credit used to purchase U.S. military supplies.

Throughout this period, however, the little civilian oversight of the military caused T.N.I. to become grossly corrupt and violent. In November 1991, the Indonesian military shot at peaceful protesters in East Timor, leading to the deaths of hundreds of people. The following year, in 1992, the U.S. Congress ended its security assistance to Jakarta. In 1995, the ban was relaxed, only to be reestablished following the reaction by T.N.I. to the 1999 decision by East Timor to separate from Indonesia.

Then, in 2002, another incident occurred involving T.N.I.; an ambush resulted in the deaths of two U.S. citizen teachers in Papua province on New Guinea. The F.B.I. complained about the little support it received from Jakarta in investigating the murders, which led Congress to further restrict the International Military Education and Training (I.M.E.T.) and Extended International Military Education and Training (E-I.M.E.T.) programs. It is thought that the Indonesian military had a role in the murders. Until the U.S. Secretary of State certifies to Congress that T.N.I. is assisting in the F.B.I. investigation on the murders, the military education and training programs will remain restricted and so will U.S. arms sales to the Indonesian government.

Jakarta claims that it is working to comply with the United States on these matters. Nevertheless, U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy said in a speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate in early February, "Although senior Indonesian military officers have repeatedly vowed to support reform, they have done next to nothing to hold their members accountable for these heinous crimes. Instead, the Indonesian military has consistently obstructed justice."

It is for this reason that the current civilian government of Yudhoyono is seeking closer ties to the Unites States and the reestablishment of the I.M.E.T. programs; Yudhoyono seeks to establish civilian control over the entrenched power of the military. The I.M.E.T. programs, for example, provide officer training courses to member countries, presently consisting of Malaysia, Thailand, Pakistan and India. It is funded by the U.S. Department of State.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency of the U.S. Department of Defense describes the I.M.E.T. program as one that "exposes students to the U.S. professional military establishment and the American way of life, including amongst other things, U.S. regard for democratic values, respect for individual and human rights and belief in the rule of law." The department further explains that the purpose of I.M.E.T. is to "further the goal of regional stability through effective, mutually beneficial military-to-military relations which culminate in increased understanding and defense cooperation between the United States and foreign countries; and to increase the ability of foreign national military and civilian personnel to absorb and maintain basic democratic values and protect internationally recognized human rights."

Because I.M.E.T. pushes civilian control of the military, it is in the interests of the civilian government of Yudhoyono to increase relations with the United States and to get its military involved in this program; this explains why Juwono is pushing for a "re-engagement" with Washington. For the entrenched military leaders, however, increasing ties with the United States could lead to the erosion of their power to civilian rule, which would be a new development for Indonesia. U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz understands this assessment, noting during a January 2005 visit to Indonesia, "Cutting off contact with Indonesian officers only makes the problem [of corruption] worse."

The military's long nationalistic history of taking actions necessary for the preservation of Indonesia's territorial integrity and security as a state makes it skeptical of improved relations with the United States. It rations that excessive force is necessary to retain control over Indonesia's many islands, where uprisings are common and separatist groups are trying to follow the example of East Timor. Indonesian military leaders worry that if it were to increase relations with the U.S., it will lose the ability to take the necessary measures to preserve Indonesia's national interests.

The Changing Security Environment

The civilian government in Jakarta is striving to reestablish good relations with Washington. In addition to its desire to firmly control the Indonesian military establishment, Jakarta also recognizes that the security environment in Southeast Asia is changing as China increases its regional power. Indonesia's modern history with China has been rocky because Jakarta cooperated with Washington to resist the spread of communism. Relations with China were not officially resumed until 1990, although since 1985 economic relations between the two countries had been reestablished. Presently, the two countries are continuing to improve relations, and trade between them has increased greatly.

For instance, a free trade area is being planned that will encompass the states that make up the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (A.S.E.A.N.) and China, creating a market of 1.7 billion people. Indonesia, as the largest economy in A.S.E.A.N., will have a huge role in trade relations with China. China is already Indonesia's fourth-largest export market and one of China's primary resource suppliers, especially in oil and gas.

However, there are potential conflicting interests between the two states. China will seek a more influential role in Southeast Asia, especially considering so many of its resources and trade will emanate from there. This will induce China to seek greater control of the region to protect its own interests and to receive the benefits that come with being a regional powerhouse. Indonesia, on the other hand, is large and independent enough to desire complete autonomy from China. Furthermore, because the United States is seeking to continue its influence in the region, Jakarta will likely attempt to balance between China and the United States, obtaining the best concessions from each.

As an example of this, if the Bush administration is able to reestablish ties with Jakarta, it will result in more U.S. weaponry being sold to Indonesia, which would be used to patrol the country's critical sea lanes. China, too, has offered fighter jets and other weaponry to Indonesia, much for the same reason but also to improve relations with a country that was formerly its antagonist.

As an example of this balancing technique, after the Chinese offer of weaponry, Juwono said that the Chinese "emphasized there would be no conditionality" and that Jakarta considered the offer "attractive." Juwono said his response to Beijing was that Indonesia's decision "depends on the strategic partnership. If it's junior partnership for Indonesia, no way." Indonesia is able to maintain this balance because the Chinese understand that Jakarta can always turn to the United States for equipment if Jakarta considers Beijing's conditions on the weapons purchases to be too demanding. And the United States knows that if it attempts to influence Indonesia's political decisions excessively, Jakarta could seek more support from Beijing.


As Southeast Asia's largest and most powerful state, Indonesia is a keystone country that is courted by both China and the United States. Both countries seek to gain influence in Jakarta, especially since the country patrols the Malacca Straits -- a critical passageway for global trade. Indonesia can attempt to balance the two powers off each other, gaining economic and military benefits from both while preserving its autonomy.

Yet, Indonesia faces a series of internal problems with which it must deal. It faces separatists in two of its provinces, and has already lost to a separatist movement in East Timor. It has suffered from multiple terrorist attacks within its borders and must be vigilant in preventing such an attack from affecting trade through the Straits. Its nationalistic military is loathe to submit to civilian rule and still retains the "real levers of power."

Yet, if Jakarta is able to control the many threats to its interests, and maintain good relations with both the United States and China, it has a promising future. The plan to create a free trade area encompassing China and the A.S.E.A.N. states will help to unite East Asia's economic ideals, improving the region's development and placing it more independent from the West.

Intelligence Brief: Sudan

Drafted By: Dr. Michael A. Weinstein

The largest country in Africa in land mass and a rising oil power -- pumping 300,000 barrels of crude per day and working to raise the total to 500,000 by the end of 2005 -- Sudan was at the center of East African politics during the week of September 19, hosting a regional counter-terrorism conference, inaugurating its first "unity" government, resulting from the agreement ending the country's north-south civil war, and reporting a victory in its other civil war -- in the western region of Darfur -- amid warnings from United Nations envoy Jan Pronk that the conflict was escalating to dangerous levels.

Once the haven for al-Qaeda and an Islamic confrontation state, Sudan has more recently -- especially since 9/11 -- changed its strategic aims and its foreign policy, moving towards integration with the broader world community and its loose capitalist order, under pressure from Washington, but also as a result of a domestic decision to focus on the possibilities for economic development opened up by its oil industry.

Khartoum's major foreign policy objective is to have Washington remove Sudan from its list of countries sponsoring terrorism. Although Washington publicly credits Khartoum with cooperation in its effort to suppress revolutionary Islamist groups, it has not acceded to Khartoum's wish because of the persistence of the Darfur conflict and the fact that Sudan serves as a route for Islamist fighters heading north to Iraq. Removal from Washington's list is important to Khartoum, not only because U.S. economic sanctions would be lifted, but because improved relations with Washington would encourage foreign investment in Sudan generally.

Counter-Terrorism Conference

Hosting the September 20-22 counter-terrorism conference, which brought together security chiefs from 16 north-central and east African states, and observers from Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, China, the U.N., the E.U. and the U.S., was a primary goal of Khartoum, which hoped that its selection would enhance its international legitimacy.

Although the states represented at the meetings have genuine domestic interests in suppressing international Islamic revolutionary groups and domestic insurgencies that operate across porous borders, the conference was also an extension of Washington's grand strategy for the region, which is based on the long-term aim of gaining access to the region's states in order to foster military-military relations and undertake civil affairs projects. Washington hopes that its strategy of penetration will provide the basis for friendly regimes in the area that will suppress radical Islamism and work to alleviate endemic poverty, which Washington sees as the root cause of the region's instability.

It is not an accident that the states attending the conference overlap with the countries falling under the "area of responsibility" and "area of interest" of the Combined Task Force Horn of Africa for U.S. Central Command, which is based in Djibouti and is tasked with implementing Washington's regional strategy. While the conference was going on, Major General Timothy Ghormley was in Washington holding a press briefing underscoring Washington's policy in soberly optimistic terms.

Held in secret, except for televised opening remarks, the conference was more a symbolic show of solidarity than an advance over the pledge to cooperate made by the participating states at their first meeting in Kenya in 2004. The Declaration on Counter-Terrorism issued at the end of the conference reaffirmed earlier commitments, mentioned a "plan of action" and included a pledge to combat terrorism "in all its forms." The latter responded to complaints by Khartoum that Washington applies a "double-standard" in its "war on terrorism," targeting radical Islamism to the exclusion of other armed movements.

Conspicuously absent from the conference were Eritrea, which had not been invited, and Somalia, a failed state with an interim government based in Kenya, waiting on promised peacekeeping troops from Uganda and Sudan to secure its relocation to Mogadishu. Khartoum accuses Asmara of providing support to the rebels in Darfur. Somalia is the focal point of al-Qaeda activity in East Africa. In his press briefing, Ghormley admitted that his Task Force had made little progress in gaining access to Eritrea and made it clear that he was barred by administration policy from intervening in Somalia.

The effectiveness of regional cooperation with Washington's policy remains problematic. States in the region -- Sudan in particular -- are more interested in gaining legitimacy for their own domestic counter-insurgencies than in suppressing international Islamic revolution. Eritrea remains in an incipient state of war with Ethiopia. Each interested party in the region will define "terrorism" according to its own priorities, blunting and confusing intra-regional collaboration.

Unity Government and Escalation in Darfur

The selection of Khartoum to host the counter-terrorism conference was, in part, a reward for its 2005 peace agreement with the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (S.P.L.M./A.) that ended a twenty-year civil war between the Muslim north, which controlled the state apparatus, and the Christian and animist south. [See: "Sudan's Changing Map"]

During the conference, the unity government prescribed by the agreement was sworn in, with the National Congress Party, representing the north and supporting President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, gaining 52 percent of the cabinet appointments, including the power ministries and the finance and energy ministries. Left with only the foreign ministry among the important posts, the S.P.L.M./A., which had fought hard for the energy ministry, was dealt a blow to its credibility with its constituency. Analysts predict that there is now a high likelihood that in four years the south will vote to separate from Sudan, as allowed by the peace agreement.

As the unity government was experiencing a shaky start, the civil war in the Darfur region heated up when the rebels there seized a town in violation of a 2005 cease-fire agreement. Khartoum responded with military force and succeeded in retaking the town. The African Union (A.U.), which is mediating peace talks between Khartoum and the two rebel groups in Abuja, Nigeria, urged all sides to hold to the cease-fire, and U.N. envoy Pronk issued a gloomy assessment of the situation, calling on countries that had promised aid to Darfur to honor their pledges.

The Bottom Line

As Khartoum seeks to break out of international isolation, it faces the legacy of northern domination of Sudan's south and west. Northern interests remain dominant in the country, but they have been challenged by previously suppressed regional groups.

Unwillingness of the northern political class to share power more generously promises to lead to eventual secession by the south and continued warfare in the west. The latter will constrain Washington to keep Khartoum on its list of terrorism sponsors. Hosting the counter-terrorism conference did nothing to change Khartoum's precarious position and enhance its international legitimacy.

Drained by civil war in the west and persisting tensions with the south, Khartoum will be hard pressed to achieve its development goals.

Having chosen to stay out of Somalia, at odds with Eritrea and equivocal towards Sudan, Washington risks being drawn into regional conflicts on one or another side rather than achieving its aim of regional integration. If Washington takes sides, it risks exacerbating instability; if it refrains from doing so, its effectiveness will be, at best, modest.