TNI soldiers waiting to be despatched on a UN peace mission to Lebanon at a training center in Sentul, West Java, on Nov. 12. (Antara Photo/Arif Firmansyah)

'Inward-Looking' TNI Oblivious of Contemporary Threats


DECEMBER 17, 2019

Jakarta. Inward-looking organizational transformation in the military within the last decade may have left Indonesia exposed to contemporary threats of cyber warfare and hindered a peaceful approach in resolving domestic conflicts, according to rights watchdog Imparsial.

"Where defense transformation in Indonesia is going is still very unclear... [mainly] because [what has been done] was not based on any strategic environmental analysis," Imparsial director Al Araf said at a discussion in Jakarta on Monday.

Al Araf pointed out that from 2010 to 2019, the Indonesian Military (TNI) has been very "inward-looking," preferring to focus on its internal affairs rather than making organizational transformations based on current strategic dynamics.

The TNI's most recent attempt at expanding its reach is a good example of this head-in-the-sand approach.  

"[The Army] had just created new territorial commands, but there was no real reason [for them to do so]," Al Araf said.

These were the regional military commands Kodam XIII/Merdeka in North Sulawesi and Kodam XVII/Kasuari in West Papua, both officially announced in December 2016.

Al Araf said establishing a new territorial command in Papua is a clear sign that the government prefers a militaristic approach to deal with problems in the province.

Unresolved human rights abuses involving the military in Papua and discriminatory treatment against Papuans in other parts of the country have fueled demand for independence in Indonesia's easternmost province in the past few years.

The moves were also contradictory to the TNI's current minimum essential force (MEF) policy, which was issued in 2010 as part of an effort to revamp its aging weaponry and military equipment.

According to Al Araf, other countries, including Australia and the United Kingdom, have made the decision to organizationally transform their defense units based on current strategic dynamics and threats.

"Australia established its cyber military division in 2017 as a response to contemporary conflict tendencies, while the UK has boosted the size of its cyber warfare army from 2,000 personnel to 8,000 in 2018 to prevent cyber attacks from Russia," Al Araf said.

The lack of outward-looking transformations in the TNI and the absence of a strategic environment analysis could be the weak points for the national defense system.

The Imparsial director said the TNI still has plenty of time to make the organizational transformations since the chance of Indonesia being involved in an open war in the next 15 years seems considerably small.