Garuda rising
How peacekeeping is helping the Indonesian military modernize
April-July 2016
By: Callum Cashel

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.

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