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    Indonesian Special Forces soldiers, also known as Kopassus, take position during a joint anti-terrorism exercise with Australia's elite unit SAS at the Bali International Airport, in Kuta, Indonesia on Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010

    US Military to Renew Ties With Infamous Indonesian Counterterror Forces

    © AP Photo / Firdia Lisnawati
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    On Tuesday, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis announced that he is looking to re-establish ties with Kopassus, Indonesia's top counterterror force, nearly 20 years after the group was barred from working with the US in 1999.

    Speaking with reporters, Mattis indicated that he believed Kopassus had reformed itself to the point that more cooperation between the two parties could be possible. Though he did not comment on the scale of possible cooperation, the 67-year-old Washingtonian did specify that his intentions are to broaden education and training with counterterror units for Kopassus members, the Washington Post reported.

    "Under our rules there are established procedures for rehabilitating a unit that has been alleged or has committed certain acts," Reuters reported Mattis telling a small group of reporters. "And we will go through the established procedures."

    Following talks with Mattis, Indonesian Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu also noted that he was hopeful that restrictions on the Kopassus forces would be lifted.

    "For a while there have been sanctions against Kopassus… [Mattis] will try to remove this," Ryacudu said. "One of the sanctions is clearly that they are not allowed to go to America. They can't do training together, and he will have to reopen this."

    The ban on military contact with the group was imposed after it was discovered that Kopassus was involved in a slew of human rights abuses that took place in Indonesia's Aceh, Papua and East Timor provinces during the 1990s. East Timor won its independence in 2002, forming the country of Timor-Leste. In 2010 the US lifted the contact ban between the Indonesian group and US forces, but kept legal restrictions in place that would only allow contact with persons that had been vetted and found not to have committed any abuses. This measure was taken in an effort to make sure that the US military did not implicate itself in any further abuses that might come to light.

    According to Stars and Stripes, members of the Kopassus force turned to Australia for training, as that country imposes fewer restrictions regarding human rights abuses.

    US officials later noted that during the meeting with Mattis, Indonesian officials inquired about the price for a delivery of 48 multirole F-16 aircraft, Reuters reported, adding that the deal could be worth an estimated $4.5 billion.

    But the deal would only be made when Indonesia "has the money," the Indonesian defense minister stated.

    "We only just bought F-16s and everything," Ryacudu added. "In [the] future there will definitely be [more purchases] because, as the years go by, there are things that must be replaced."

    Mattis' move to ease ties with Indonesia has been described as part of the US' rallying call to keep countries in the region from being intimidated by China in the South China Sea, according to the Wall Street Journal.

    After leaving Indonesia, Mattis is scheduled to arrive in Vietnam just days before the 50th anniversary of the Tet Offensive.


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