Edna Carolina Pattisina, Jakarta – On Thursday May 30 Indonesia become the first country in South-East Asia to be visited by US Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Michael Shanahan. During a meeting with Indonesian Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu, the issue of training for the army's Special Forces (Kopassus) and the South China Sea were discussed.
In a statement Shanahan underscored that training with Kopassus would begin in 2020. This was emphasised in a joint statement between the two country's defense ministers.
"The two ministries reaffirmed support for expanding military training next year, and in normalizing the relationship with the Special Forces beginning in 2020 with joint training together with Kopassus", read the joint statement.
Kopassus commander Major General Nyoman Cantiasa said that Kopassus wants medical training. He explained that in military operations, dealing with medical emergencies is extremely important particularly in ensuring the safety of soldiers who are wounded in combat.
"We want a sergeant to be able to carry out emergency surgery, so that they can ensure that wounded soldiers can survive for at least three days before receiving hospital treatment", said Cantiasa.
According to Cantiasa, there has been a normalisation of the relationship between the Indonesian and US Special Forces over the last few years. So far there has been training and education classes and next year it is hoped that medical training can be conducted.
Ryacudu said that Indonesia needs training related to medical rehabilitation saying that they want soldiers wounded in combat to be able to return to active duty as combat soldiers.
The two ministers reaffirmed support for expanding joint training in the future and normalizing the relationship with the Special Forces starting in 2020 with joint training with Kopassus.
In addition to discussing training for Kopassus and the South China Sea, the two defense ministers also discussed the threat of radicalism and terrorism. Shanahan said that the US wants to improve defense cooperation with Indonesia.
"We want to improve inter-operability, capability and capacity. I trust that today's discussions will become a strong basis for important and good cooperation for both countries", said Shanahan.
Efforts to improve the relationship between the US and Kopassus have been limited by issues of human rights violations in the 1990s. At a meeting last year Shanahan's predecessor Jim Mattis said that he hopped to be able to help Indonesia to ease US restrictions on joint training with Kopassus.
In 2010 the US announced it had abolished the direct prohibition on military officers from Indonesia's special forces which was related to human rights violations in the lead up to the 1999 independence referendum in East Timor.
Pentagon spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Dave Eastburn revealed that plans for joint training between the US and Kopassus are still in the early states. He estimates that the training will be held over a period of five to six weeks and will involve around 150 participants.
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "AS Pulihkan Hubungan dengan Kopassus".]