Editions : April-July 2016

JOURNAL | INDONESIA 360 By: Callum Cashel

“Peacekeeping is not a soldier’s job, but only soldiers can do it.”

Dag Hammarskjöld, secretary general of the United Nations, 1953-61


Indonesia’s expanding participation in United Nations peacekeeping operations is not often thought of in the context of the ongoing military modernization of its Armed Forces. This essay attempts to present the issue of the ongoing modernization of the Tentara Nasional Indonesia (TNI) in a different light. The TNI is beginning to realize reforms in all aspects and branches of the institution that have been long planned for and advocated. As the TNI continues to push through these reforms, both political and material, it is useful to demonstrate the benefits a robust peacekeeping operations program has to TNI modernization and reform.

Before his departure from office in 2014, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono set a long-term target of 10,000 deployed peacekeepers and an increase of 4,000 in the medium term, with the goal to place Indonesia within the top 10 countries that contribute peacekeepers, which it has since achieved. As the current president, Joko Widodo, consolidates his hold on domestic issues, it is hoped he will continue this emphasis on peacekeeping participation. This essay is timely, as the ninth rotation of a mechanized infantry battalion, uniquely called the Kontingen Garuda (Konga) XXIII-I, has recently returned to Indonesia from a one-year deployment as part of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (Unifil). More than just an exercise in international prestige, peacekeeping operations bring real benefits for modernization efforts within the Indonesian military, in the form of active deterrence and doctrinal development. However, these are as yet incidental and can be taken further advantage of if better understood.

Peacekeeping operations

Indonesia has a rich history of involvement in peacekeeping operations since its statehood in 1949, with only a brief intermission during the 1997-98 Asian economic crisis. From missions as varied as the Sinai Peninsula and Haiti, the TNI has fielded 32 contingents in more than 20 countries, operating as both a leader and joint participant. These missions are an important and tangible outcome of Indonesia’s free and active foreign policy, and its constitutional obligations. Indonesia has over the years earned a reputation as both a reliable contributor and a force that naturally wins the hearts and minds of the local population. Indonesia currently has 2,682 TNI peacekeepers deployed internationally, the bulk of whom are in Lebanon and Mali, where an Army company deployed in September 2015.

The most important recent deployment is the ongoing commitment to Lebanon, which began in 2006 with Garuda XXII-A as part of Unifil. The initial deployment consisted of an 850-member mechanized infantry battalion from the Komando Strategis Cadangan Angkatan Darat (Army Strategic Reserve Command, or Kostrad) and the Korps Marinir (Marine Corps, or Kormar), with newly acquired armored personnel carriers. The Lebanon deployment is of significance as it has only been since Indonesia’s democratic reform period began in the late 1990s that the military has been able to field and sustain a battalion-sized contingent overseas.

The Indonesian government has recognized the importance of peacekeeping as a core competency for TNI personnel and has created the Indonesian National Defense Forces Peacekeeping Center in Sentul, West Java Province, which trains large contingents of soldiers, airmen and marines for deployment in prospective peacekeeping missions. This is part of a push by the TNI to focus on military operations other than war, and it is the largest center of its kind in Southeast Asia, a region with a strong pedigree of peacekeeping contributions. This was a broader objective introduced by Yudhoyono, to train and deploy 10,000 peacekeepers.

This is a bold objective but it is not an unobtainable one. This essay works under the assumption that Indonesia is positioning the TNI to substantially increase the number of personnel who undergo peacekeeping training and the numbers deployed on operations. The actual target figure is somewhat elusive: if Indonesia managed to deploy 10,000 troops on peacekeeping operations it would be the top contributing country in the world. A more conservative figure offered is 4,000, which if adopted would place Indonesia sixth on the list. This is still substantial, as Indonesia has adopted peacekeeping as a competency across its entire Armed Forces, rather than a dedicated unit. As such, the peacekeeping center in West Java would have to train 4,000 personnel for deployment every year. This spreads the experience and skills across a larger contingent of soldiers. It is in light of this posturing that this essay considers the utility of peacekeeping operations to Indonesia’s military modernization program.


First, it is pivotal to outline the broad goals of the TNI and the governing framework that underpins them, before examining how the military is changing to achieve these aims. Indonesia’s 2008 defense white paper provides five strategic goals: implement a deterrence capability; position the TNI to respond to military aggression from foreign states; enable the TNI to respond to military threats that challenge Indonesian interests; to meet nonmilitary threats to Indonesian security; and bring about world peace and regional stability. Of these goals, the implementation of a deterrence capability transcends all of them, as a functional offensive deterrent should be able to respond to a broad spectrum of security contingencies. As such, it is a primary focus of this essay.

This essay argues that peacekeeping operations should be positioned as a focus of modernization. A robust operations program has important knock-on benefits including vital combat-esque experience for soldiers, a streamlined procurement strategy and modernizing doctrine. While this may be a controversial notion, the current reality for Indonesia’s Armed Forces is that its only international field deployments have been peacekeeping operations. Emphasizing peacekeeping operations gives clear direction for Indonesia’s modernization efforts and arguably addresses other important matters by extension. It is more valuable than a sense of doing the right thing on the world stage.

Deterrence capability

The 2006 deployment of Konga XXIII-A, through to the recently completely mission of Konga XXIII-I, serves as an excellent example of the TNI’s ability to project and sustain a mechanized battalion somewhere as remote as Lebanon. Here we explore this capability to demonstrate that it can be applied to the development of a functioning conventional deterrence strategy. If Indonesia has a deterrence capability that can respond to a range of threats from within the immediate region, this would go a long way toward the TNI achieving the goal of securing the country’s sovereignty.

The definition of deterrence used in this context is lifted from the United States Department of Defense Dictionary of Military Terms: “The prevention of action by the existence of a credible threat of unacceptable counteraction and/or belief that the cost of action outweighs the perceived benefits.” On this basis, there are two types of deterrence: direct and indirect. Indirect relies on a more powerful third party to deter the attack of an opposition force, something that is only found in the strongest of security partnerships, such as NATO. Indonesia rightly has no interest in pursuing formal defense partnerships. Indonesia is, however, working to establish direct deterrence, developing the ability to prevent and respond to an attack unilaterally.

Rather than destabilizing Southeast Asia, a properly implemented deterrence strategy should bring about the opposite outcome. It is the implementation process that can become a problem if it is not managed adroitly. If the TNI can create a functioning deterrence, it will erode the enduring mentality among its military leaders that Indonesia is in a weak position relative to its neighbors. Continuing to harbor this perception ensures the Armed Forces continues to be an ill-equipped, lumbering military monolith rather than like its more agile neighbors.

A modern conventional deterrence strategy involves a combination of two competencies. First, high-end platforms designed to provide a capability in specified operational settings. Second, a force projection capability achieved through rapid transportation and soldiers sustained over a defined distance to achieve the foreign policy goals for which they are deployed. Evidence of procurement initiatives taken to achieve this can be seen in plans for significant investment in high-end capabilities, including the possible purchase of 12 Russian-made Kilo-class diesel-electric submarines and the establishment of 10 new fighter squadrons apparently made up of F-16 and SU-30 variants from the United States and Russia, respectively.

Peacekeeping operations clearly have no role in the high-end capability side of deterrence; however, they are exceedingly relevant to any force projection capability development. Unlike Australia, which has been continually involved in high-tempo expeditionary combat operations for an extended period of time, Indonesia’s only experience in international military deployments has been for peacekeeping operations.

The particular method of force projection discussed in this next section is made up of three parts: the force generation and operations experience of the soldiers to be projected; the airlift and sealift required to transport them to the requisite theater; and the incorporation of this into the Indonesian military’s organizational structure.

Force generation and experience

It is practical to frame the examination of the utility that the Lebanon peacekeeping operation provides the TNI at the battalion level, as this is a standardized grouping for infantry units in both a peacekeeping and combat orientation. The organizational structure of the two types of battalions is similar, although the Kostrad infantry battalion organization of three companies of two platoons each needed to be mechanized, as well as bolstered, to fit the force standardization guidelines for UN troop contributing countries.

The lessons learned as part of the Unifil deployment to Lebanon from late 2006 to the present day under Konga XXIII have been remitted back to TNI headquarters to be incorporated into a combat capability. This is demonstrated in the tasks an infantry battalion must be adept in handling to qualify as a troop contributing country contingent. The UN Infantry Battalion Manual stipulates 16 key tasks, 11 of which would be most applicable in a combat operation. While Garuda XXIII may not have carried out all of the tasks, the battalions deployed to Lebanon have received training in conducting these tasks, a requirement of achieving mission readiness status for deployment.

Garuda XXIII-A, the first battalion deployed to Lebanon, specifically excelled in three of the tasks: maintaining static and dynamic observation posts, situational awareness and enforcing a linear buffer zone between Israel and Hezbollah. (The zone is known as the “blue line,” more than seven miles of which falls within Indonesia’s area of operations.) One of the pivotal skills the mechanized infantry battalion excelled at was operational intelligence gathering on fighting-age males, obtained through dynamic operations posts in a discrete manner, so not to exacerbate tensions. In many ways, conducting an operation in an environment with extremely strict rules of engagement is more challenging for soldiers, as it can be frustrating at times. Agus Yudhoyono, the former president’s son, who served as a first lieutenant in Garuda XXIII-A, reflected on the difficulties of transitioning from combat- orientated training to peacekeeping operations during a speech in Jakarta on United Nations Day in 2008. “For regular military units whose principal responsibilities revolve around maintaining its war fighting capabilities,” he said, “there needs to be considerable adjustments to their operational concept.”

Nowhere is this more evident than in conducting patrols and ensuring the buffer zone remains intact; good rapport with both sides to the dispute as well as the community within the area of operation is critical. Participating in peacekeeping missions exposes the TNI to an extremely complex operational environment that is fast becoming an enduring factor in modern expeditionary warfare, where the behavior of the soldiers is of equal value to their ability to prosecute the mission objectives. These three tasks are transferrable and, importantly, it is practically impossible to gain experience in them in a nonoperational setting.

There are, however, limitations to the utility of peacekeeping operations to the development of Indonesia’s force projection capability, which stem from the unwillingness to expand the military’s contribution of personnel from peacekeeping to the more robust peace enforcement operations role, demanded by Chapter VII of the UN Security Council declarations. Chapter VII peace enforcement operations come under articles 39, 41 and 42 of the UN Charter, the last of which enables the UN Security Council to take “such action by air, sea or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security.”

Peace enforcement operations are used when conflicting parties do not consent to the presence of the intervening force; have not reached a cease-fire agreement or are not honoring it. Indonesia takes a rigid interpretation of the preamble of its 1945 Constitution, which underpins the nation’s peacekeeping initiatives, meaning that working toward the establishment of perpetual peace excludes enforcing peace through coercive measures, as is often required in peace enforcement operations. Whereas traditional peacekeeping cannot be found within the UN Charter itself, it is colloquially referred to as “Chapter VI and one-half,” as the type of action required fits between peace enforcement operations and peaceful settlements of disputes. While the Indonesian military is constitutionally prevented from participating in UN peace enforcement operations, the reality of peacekeeping is that judicious use of violence in self-defense and defense of the mandate is often required.

There does not seem any appetite in Jakarta for taking on more aggressive peacekeeping missions. This could change in the future, as it is predicted that an increasing number of future conflicts requiring UN intervention will fall, leaving an expanded Indonesian peacekeeping operation program with fewer expeditionary opportunities. It is argued, though, that recent examples of peace enforcement operations have been primarily the domain of major powers acting in concert in an ad hoc fashion outside the umbrella of the UN, such as NATO in Libya in 2011. Indonesia has the ability to carve out a niche in positioning itself as a top 10 troop contributing country, focusing exclusively on peacekeeping operations.

While the contribution of peacekeeping operations to a functional deterrence strategy for force projection is limited by an unwillingness to engage in peace enforcement operations through a rigid interpretation of Indonesia’s 1945 Constitution, by training and sending soldiers and marines on international deployment, Indonesia is able to get invaluable operational experience. This translates directly into the development of Indonesia’s force projection and deterrence capability, which in turn gives the nation the ability to rapidly respond to a deteriorating external security situation, but also in natural disaster response at home and abroad. It is necessary to understand how Indonesia’s existing and future peacekeeping program fits into the TNI structure to realize the benefits to force modernization in the form of a conventional offensive deterrence.


The benefits of the Army Strategic Reserve Command (Kostrad) and the Marine Corps (Kormar), however, are of no use without the sea or airlifts to project them. There are two types of lift: tactical and strategic. Tactical lift can be considered as the transportation of materials, personnel or weaponry within a theater of combat, whereas strategic airlift moves into the theater from without. As far as sealift is concerned, the four 8,000-ton Makassar-class landing platform docks acquired between 2007 and 2011 provide strategic sealift to a range of some 10,000 nautical miles, enough to reach anywhere of interest to Indonesia. A platform has a cargo capacity of 35 armored vehicles, 507 personnel, five helicopters and two landing craft, operated by 126 crew members. This space is enough to comfortably transport an infantry battalion configured to Kostrad and UN standards. While the platform dock is primarily used by Kormar, Kostrad is also trained in deploying from it. Importantly, the dock is a versatile capability, meaning it can be employed in combat capacities and military operations other than war interchangeably. The landing platform docks were not deployed for the Konga XXIII missions as they were not commissioned until after the first battalion was transported; in addition, the UN often provides subsidized transportation for peacekeeping contingents. In the case of Konga XXIII, the US Military Sealift Command provided a ship.

Indonesia’s airlift capability is drawn from its Air Force and is structured to provide tactical lift, using a variety of aircraft that carry a relatively small number of personnel. There are no plans for the Air Force to acquire strategic airlift capability, such as the C-17A Globemaster III used by the Australian Air Force, which has a range of 6,450 miles. It is not necessary to acquire this capability, as if required the Air Force’s tactical airlift can easily reach anywhere within Indonesia and neighboring countries from bases stationed across the archipelago. By working within the structure of the infantry battalion the TNI can adequately project a small amount of force within the region that possesses experience in conducting peacekeeping operations overseas, and which is transferrable to combat operations.


Now, we can analyze how this utility fits into Indonesia’s deterrence strategy.  The Indonesian Armed Forces is currently in the process of reorganizing a segment of its forces into combined defense command regions (Kogabwilhan), which operate contingents from all three services and are stationed in key littoral approaches and strategic flashpoints. The primary purpose of the introduction of the Kogabwilhan, according to Purnomo Yusgiantoro, a former defense minister, is that they will “serve as deterrence to other countries, as the command will have the flexibility needed and the resources for rapid deployment.” The Kogabwilhan will reportedly be based in the Natuna Islands as they lie in the South China Sea; the Papua region, because of the low intensity of separatist violence there; Aceh Province, because of the importance of the Malacca Strait as well as the potential for unrest; and Atambua, in East Nusa Tenggara Province, due to its closeness to Timor Leste and Australia.

It is from these positions that Indonesia’s embryonic conventional offensive deterrence capability can be launched. The Kogabwilhan is based around joint operations, quick reaction capability, force projection based on both high- powered platforms such as fighter squadrons and naval craft as well as highly trained marines and Army personnel. The new emphasis on developing an offensive deterrent capability based on the Kogabwilhan model is demonstrative of the TNI’s reorganization to address the changing threat environment from internal to external. There is little likelihood of a land war in Southeast Asia involving Indonesia; such an outcome would be disastrous for all parties involved. However, it is necessary to develop a deterrent capability to help prevent any deterioration in regional relations.

Doctrinal development

Doctrine can be a difficult concept to define, as it is exceptionally broad in its application. But the simplest explanation is the best: essentially, doctrine dictates how forces are employed and is determined by a military’s history, environment and capabilities. Indonesia’s defense doctrine has remained relatively stagnant for some time, the foundational doctrine being the Sistim Pertahanan Keamanan Rakyat Semesta (Total People’s Defense and Security System, or Sishankamrata). A 1995 defense white paper, in describing the doctrine, emphasized that in order to “prevent war, the philosophy pursued by Indonesia to deter a would-be aggressor is based, not on the size of the military forces it can deploy, but on a high level of assurance that any belligerence against Indonesia will be met by the resistance of the whole Indonesian people, and thus the aggressor’s aims will never be achieved.”

This is more commonly referred to as territorial warfare, a defensive strategy that relies on cooperation between the Armed Forces and the local population as a force multiplier. It has suited Indonesia well as it favors the modestly equipped military over a smaller, more technically advanced aggressor. The term territorial warfare is used because the doctrine demarcates Indonesia geographically into independent fighting groups that are able to conduct operations without the support of a centralized command. Indonesia’s territorial command structure and the military area commands (Kodam) are the embodiment of this doctrine. This doctrine is a reflection of Indonesia’s war for independence, which relied on popular support to sustain the fighting. It also reflects the environment – as an archipelagic nation, decentralized command makes sense given the vast distances between key population centers and littoral approaches. The capabilities of the TNI are a result of these realities, as a territorial warfare doctrine places less of an emphasis on technological prowess rather than social interaction and presence. The recent developments outlined above, however, require this doctrine to change in order for the TNI to capitalize on them. Otherwise, the utility of peacekeeping operations to the TNI’s modernization will fade into obscurity.

Indonesian troops deployed to Cambodia in 1992 as part of the UN peacekeeping mission there, and the contingent was built around four airborne infantry battalions with other periphery units in support, notably from Kormar. It was the Sishankamrata doctrine that the Indonesian soldiers brought with them into Cambodia. Adroit negotiation and interaction skills with the local population resulted in them being generally well received. However, when the security situation deteriorated, soldiers exhibited weak combat capability and a “lack of toughness.” This manifested itself when Khmer Rouge soldiers forced an entire platoon to disarm and took them prisoner for five days during the deployment. Sishankamrata proved wholly inadequate to respond to the scope of challenges faced by the soldiers, and this is a reflection on the applicability of territorial warfare to situations outside of Indonesia.

The TNI adopted the Tridharma Ekakarma doctrine (Sanskrit for Three Devotion, One Struggle, or Tridek) in 2007, and formally in 2010. While it had the view to incorporate certain aspects of modern warfare, such as network-centric warfare and an emphasis on intelligence management, as well as a move toward adopting a deterrence strategy, territorial warfare remains central to the doctrine. The table below outlines how the Indonesian Army would respond to an attack under Tridek.

It is not argued that the territorial command has no place in the future of the Indonesian Army. It is important to be realistic. The TNI enmeshment with the civilian population to drive out an invading force is important if the situation would demand it. However, it must be stressed that a situation that activated this strategy would require a catastrophic breakdown of regional relations in Southeast Asia.

 What should be changed?

This essay advocates working within existing doctrine to achieve a more appropriate outcome for the employment of the TNI to defend Indonesia. As such, it is agreed that territorial warfare is necessary to share the burden of providing security with an active conventional deterrence. However, at this moment there is a disproportionate emphasis on the former, and this must change. Indonesia is well-equipped to adapt to the changing nature of warfare, characterized by the three-block war and the strategic corporal concepts, which give value to a soldier’s interaction with the population outside of single-dimensional war fighting. This is a direct result of the territorial warfare doctrine and it should be maintained moving forward. However, Tridek currently makes no provision for the projection of forces into the region pursuant to Indonesian foreign policy goals.

Peacekeeping operations contribute to the development of doctrine by demonstrating that expeditionary warfare is possible, and the TNI can perform it well, seen with Konga XXIII. As such, TNI doctrine must change to better incorporate active conventional deterrence through force projection. Doctrinal emphasis on the employment of the territorial command should be reduced in favor of enhancing the responsibility of conventional deterrence. The effect of this would expand the responsibility for the operational command of Kostrad and Kormar in the provision of security. The Kogabwilhan represent a hybrid of the two commands. They are positioned at key possible flashpoints across the state, designed to act independently and organized for rapid response. Importantly, the Kogabwilhan serve as a conduit for joint operations, increasing the involvement of the Indonesian Army and Air Force, which activates both the sea and airlift capabilities mentioned earlier and deterrence platforms such as the forthcoming fighter squadrons and submarines. TNI doctrine must accommodate these developments and reduce reliance on the territorial command, otherwise Indonesia’s military modernization will continue to be described as ad hoc and lacking long-term vision. 


In the wake of the stability and development that characterized the Yudhoyono administration, Indonesia has entered into a new era with President Joko and the accompanying uncertainty as to the future of the TNI. This essay has attempted to contribute to a better understanding of the role peacekeeping operations play within Indonesia’s Armed Forces, and that the benefits of participating in peacekeeping operations are more important than a financial subsidy from the UN, individual soldiers’ promotions and visually demonstrating Indonesia’s presence on the international stage. The benefits are tangible and valuable to the ongoing modernization of the TNI, and are underappreciated within the military.

Peacekeeping operations are of direct relevance to the goal of the TNI in introducing an active conventional deterrence capability through force projection, given the expeditionary nature of Konga and the source of personnel being from Kostrad and Kormar. Structural incorporation of an expanded peacekeeping operations agenda is feasible, but it requires significant reform of Indonesian military doctrine, which has been notoriously slow to adapt. As doctrine affects all three levels of force employment – tactical, operational and strategic – doctrinal reform would trigger not only the effective incorporation of an expanded peacekeeping program, but it would allow other significant related modernization initiatives to be effectively employed, such as the Kogabwilhan. 

It is not suggested that peacekeeping operations play a central role in the modernization of the TNI, but the role it does play is underappreciated and therefore useful to examine. The benefits to modernization outlined in this essay have occurred largely incidentally, without direction from the government or discussion among academia. By drawing attention to these benefits, they can be reinforced and improved upon. In the long run, Indonesia will have a capable and professional military able to carry out its foreign policy goals when necessary. Indonesia’s peacekeeping operations will play a supporting role in realizing this outcome.  


Callum Cashel is an international relations graduate from Flinders University in Australia who has conducted field research on the Indonesian Armed Forces’ peacekeeping program.


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