Nani Afrida, Jakarta – The Indonesian Military (TNI) revealed on Tuesday its readiness to start a security operation to deal with the terror threat in Poso, Central Sulawesi.
TNI spokesman Maj. Gen. Fuad Basya said the military was waiting for President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's instruction to start its operation.
"Currently, the police are conducting a security operation in Poso and the TNI is supporting by deploying intelligence personnel. The police operation will end on March 26," Fuad told The Jakarta Post in Jakarta.
He added that the TNI could launch a security operation against terrorists in the area if evaluations showed that the police-led crackdowns had failed to curb terror acts. He hinted that the instruction for the TNI to join the war on terror could be issued in March.
"Conflict in Poso has been going on for years and the perpetrators have created instability. It needs to be settled soon for the sake of the local residents," he said.
Fuad acknowledged that combating terrorism was not part of the TNI's remit and that Poso was not under martial law. "This is why we need the order directly from the President to enter the area," he said.
Last week, TNI Commander Gen. Moeldoko revealed the military was ready to maintain security in Poso and said the TNI would join with the police to achieve peace in the area.
Meanwhile, National Police deputy chief Comr. Gen. Badrodin Haiti said the police had carried out a security operation called Operasi Camar 2015, which was supported by the military and the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT). Badrodin said the operation would focus on areas including Sausu, North Poso Pesisir, South Poso Pesisir, Lore and several areas in Gunung Biru.
Violence has reportedly escalated in recent months, with five civilians killed by an armed group in December and members of terror groups coming down from their mountain hideouts to steal food in the villages.
The group, believed to be linked to the Islamic State (IS) organization, was also involved in a gunfight with a joint police-military patrol in Tangkura subdistrict, South Poso Pesisir, last month. The group's leader is alleged to be Santoso, the most wanted man in the country.
Counterterrorism operations have been staged in Poso for the past 14 years, with no significant results. The police have yet to arrest members of the Santoso group, which has been operating in the region for the last four years.
Terrorist expert Al Chaidar said the plan for the TNI to join the counterterroism effort in Poso could bring a permanent solution. "People in Poso will welcome the military as they are tired with the situation," Al Chaidar said.
Taufik Andrie from Yayasan Prasasti Perdamaian (YPP) agreed that the deployment of military personnel in Poso could be effective, as TNI soldiers were skilled in guerilla warfare, which could be used against the Santoso group.
Meanwhile, Haris Azhar from the Commission of Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) said increased military involvement could bring changes to the way terrorism was fought in the country. "It will change from law enforcement into waging war," he said.