Home Contact Us  

Terrorism - Articles

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
#3112, 5 May 2010
Counter-Terrorism in Indonesia: The Price of Success
Chloe Choquier
Research Intern, IPCS
e-mail: chloe_choquier@yahoo.fr

On 22 February 2010, a series of Indonesian police operations led to the discovery of an alleged militant training camp in the Jalin Forest of the province of Aceh. The operations revealed the existence of a previously unknown group calling itself al Qaeda in Aceh, whose supposed leader, top-ranked Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) militant Dulmatin was killed in a shootout with Indonesian police on 9 March 2010. One of the most wanted terrorist in Southeast Asia, he was suspected of being the mastermind behind the 2002 Bali bombings. Much-praised by Washington and Canberra, this success is nevertheless challenged by the continued presence of al Qaeda in Aceh, which shows “the strengthening of the terrorist network in Indonesia, not it’s weakening” said Andi Widjajanto, a military analyst at the University of Indonesia. A new unity among extremist groups questions the degree to which offensive counterterrorism measures actually damage the terrorists’ ability to perpetrate attacks. Does the number of arrests and police raids actually reduce the terrorist threat in the country?

Supposedly resulting from a split within JI, the composite group seems to have gathered together terrorists from several militant factions that had never been allied before. “They didn’t necessarily agree to carry out Bali-style bombings, but they did agree on military training and the need to establish an Islamic state, by force if necessary,” said Sidney Jones, International Crisis Group’s expert on Indonesia, to the Canadian Globe and Mail. The head of the counter-terrorism division at the Coordinating Ministry for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs, Inspector General Ansyaad Mbai told The Jakarta Post that terrorists are also believed to be receiving assistance from several former Free Aceh Movement (GAM) combatants dissatisfied with the 2005 peace accord in the region. Mr Dulmatin and his presumed successor, Umar Patek, also created a direct link between the new organization and the Filipino terrorist group ‘Abu Sayyaf’, which had both joined after the Bali bombings. The ability of these groups to maintain regional contacts and create alliances might draw a reassessment of Jakarta’s glorified counter-terrorism achievements.

Indonesia has greatly improved its capacities and efforts over the last few years, with a wake-up call provoked by the July 2009 Jakarta bombing. The archipelagic State officially adopts a ‘soft approach’ based on the prosecution of most of the 450 extremists arrested since 2002. By not declaring a War on Terror and by treating terrorists as criminals rather than enemies, Indonesia managed to gain public support among moderate Muslims. The de-radicalization programs established from 2004 in Indonesian prisons succeeded to persuade dozens of jihadists to renounce violence and cooperate with the police.

But what is the effectiveness of these soft measures? According to Noor Huda Ismail, former extremist Dar-ul Islam member, too many released terror suspects are still prone to becoming recidivists. On 12 April, six alleged terrorists suspected of participating in military training activities in Aceh were arrested on Sumatra Island. Two of them, identified as Ibrahim and Lutfi, had earlier served time in prison for their roles in the 2004 Australian embassy bombing in Jakarta. Indonesian prisons actually remain a hot spot for recruitment, due to massive corruption and a lack of supervision. Radicalization within jails is still a major concern for the government, which needs to allow more funding for de-radicalization programs and more energy to monitoring activities of former prisoners.

Indonesia’s anti-terrorism policy has left aside two major causes of terrorists’ strength. First, it does not damage the fundraising process, mainly based on a system of Zakat, Infaq and Sadaqah collected through Mosques owned by radical Islamic groups. A 2008 evaluation report by the Asia-Pacific Group on money laundering, notes that there has been a very limited use of the terrorist financing offence in Indonesia, since it can only be used when linked to a specific terrorist act. Second, in the case of al Qaeda in Aceh, the arming of terrorists was facilitated by indirect factors – the massive availability of weapons in Aceh despite the provisions of the 2005 Helsinki Peace Agreement and the proximity of the Malacca Straits easing the procurement of firearms through drug trafficking in Thailand and Myanmar.

With the expected ‘pulang kampong’ (homecoming) of President Barack Obama in Jakarta, Indonesia's US-funded special counterterrorism unit, Detachment 88, had stepped up its hunt for wanted terrorists over the past few weeks. But the extensive number of shootouts of top operatives by Detachment 88 in the last few months does not stop these networks from constantly evolving, recruiting, and becoming less dependent upon high profile figures. By killing terror suspects, the police lose the opportunity of obtaining crucial intelligence, and run the risk of converting sympathizers into combatants. Consequently, neither a soft approach nor a military approach can succeed in countering terrorism in Indonesia as long as it does not tackle recruitment processes.

In conclusion, Indonesia’s counter-terrorism policy won’t gain long-term efficiency unless it addresses larger security issues and tackles the root causes of radicalism by adopting a preventive approach. Even though this soft approach drastically reduced its potential to jeopardize the state, the terrorist threat will remain a challenge for Indonesia in the near future.

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
IPCS Columnists
Af-Pak Diary
D Suba Chandran
Resetting Kabul-Islamabad Relations: Three Key Issues
Can Pakistan Reset its Relations with Afghanistan?
The New Afghanistan: Four Major Challenges for President Ghani
Big Picture
Prof Varun Sahni
Understanding Democracy and Diversity in J&K
When Xi Met Modi: Juxtaposing China and India
Pakistan?s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: The Inevitability of Instability

Dateline Colombo

Asanga Abeyagoonasekera.
Sri Lanka: Moving Towards a Higher Collective Outcome
The Importance of Electing the Best to our Nation's Parliament
Sri Lanka: Toward a Diaspora Re-Engagement Plan
Dateline Islamabad
Salma Malik
Pakistan's Hurt Locker: What Next?
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
India-Pakistan Relations in 2015: Through a Looking Glass
Dhaka Discourse
Prof Delwar Hossain
IPCS Forecast: Bangladesh in 2015
18th SAARC Summit: A Perspective from Bangladesh
Bangladesh in Global Forums: Diplomacy vs. Domestic Politics
Eagle Eye
Prof Chintamani Mahapatra
India-US: Significance of the Second Modi-Obama Meet
Has President Obama Turned Lame Duck?
Modi-Obama Summit: Criticism for Criticism?s Sake?

East Asia Compass
Dr Sandip Mishra
India-Japan-US Trilateral: India?s Policy for the Indo-Pacific
China-South Korea Ties: Implications for the US Pivot to Asia
Many ?Pivots to Asia?: What Does It Mean For Regional Stability?
Himalayan Frontier
Pramod Jaiswal
Nepal?s New Constitution: Instrument towards Peace or Catalyst to Conflict?
IPCS Forecast: Nepal in 2015
Constitution-making: Will Nepal Miss its Second Deadline?

Prof Shankari Sundararaman
IPCS Forecast: Southeast Asia in 2015
Indonesia's Pacific Identity: What Jakarta Must Do in West Papua
Modi in Myanmar: From ?Look East? to ?Act East?
Sushant Sareen
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
Islamic State: Prospects in Pakistan
Pakistan: The Futility of Internationalising Kashmir

Looking East
Wasbir Hussain
Myanmar in New Delhi's Naga Riddle
China: ?Peaceful? Display of Military Might
Naga Peace Accord: Need to Reserve Euphoria
Maritime Matters
Vijay Sakhuja
Indian Ocean: Modi on a Maritime Pilgrimage
Indian Ocean: Exploring Maritime Domain Awareness
IPCS Forecast: The Indian Ocean in 2015

Nuke Street
Amb Sheelkant Sharma
US-Russia and Global Nuclear Security: Under a Frosty Spell?
India's Nuclear Capable Cruise Missile: The Nirbhay Test
India-Australia Nuclear Agreement: Bespeaking of a New Age
Red Affairs
Bibhu Prasad
Countering Left Wing Extremism: Failures within Successes
Return of the Native: CPI-Maoist in Kerala
The Rising Civilian Costs of the State-Vs-Extremists Conflict

Regional Economy
Amita Batra
India and the APEC
IPCS Forecast: South Asian Regional Integration
South Asia: Rupee Regionalisation and Intra-regional Trade Enhancement
South Asian Dialectic
PR Chari
Resuming the Indo-Pak Dialogue: Evolving a New Focus
Defence Management in India: An Agenda for Parrikar
Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan: Implications for Asian Security

Spotlight West Asia
Amb Ranjit Gupta
Prime Minister Modi Finally Begins His Interaction with West Asia*
A Potential Indian Role in West Asia?
US-GCC Summit: More Hype than Substance
Strategic Space
Manpreet Sethi
India-Russia Nuclear Vision Statement: See that it Delivers
Global Nuclear Disarmament: The Humanitarian Consequences Route
Nasr: Dangers of Pakistan's Short Range Ballistic Missile

The Strategist
Vice Admiral Vijay Shankar
Jihadi Aggression and Nuclear Deterrence
The Blight of Ambiguity
Falun Gong: The Fear Within

OTHER REGULAR contributors
Gurmeet Kanwal
Harun ur Rashid
N Manoharan
Wasbir Hussain
Rana Banerji
N Manoharan

Ruhee Neog
Teshu Singh
Aparupa Bhattacherjee
Roomana Hukil
Aparupa Bhattacherjee


Browse by Publications

Issue Briefs 
Special Reports 
Research Papers 
Seminar Reports 
Conference Reports 

Browse by Region/Countries

East Asia 
South Asia 
Southeast Asia 
US & South Asia 

Browse by Issues

India & the world  
Naxalite Violence 
Suicide Terrorism 
Peace & Conflict Database 
Article by same Author
Crisis in Thailand-III: Assessing Human Rights Concerns

ASEAN and SAARC: Resolving Intra Regional Disputes

US and Kopassus Training: Strategic and Legal Aspects

Y! MyWeb
Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
Year 2018
 2017  2016  2015  2014  2013  2012  2011  2010
 2009  2008  2007  2006  2005  2004  2003  2002
 2001  2000  1999  1998  1997

The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) is the premier South Asian think tank which conducts independent research on and provides an in depth analysis of conventional and non-conventional issues related to national and South Asian security including nuclear issues, disarmament, non-proliferation, weapons of mass destruction, the war on terrorism, counter terrorism , strategies security sector reforms, and armed conflict and peace processes in the region.

For those in South Asia and elsewhere, the IPCS website provides a comprehensive analysis of the happenings within India with a special focus on Jammu and Kashmir and Naxalite Violence. Our research promotes greater understanding of India's foreign policy especially India-China relations, India's relations with SAARC countries and South East Asia.

Through close interaction with leading strategic thinkers, former members of the Indian Administrative Service, the Foreign Service and the three wings of the Armed Forces - the Indian Army, Indian Navy, and Indian Air Force, - the academic community as well as the media, the IPCS has contributed considerably to the strategic discourse in India.

Subscribe to Newswire | Site Map
18, Link Road, Jungpura Extension, New Delhi 110014, INDIA.

Tel: 91-11-4100-1902    Email: officemail@ipcs.org

© Copyright 2018, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.