Photo by: Indonesia Army

JAKARTA (TheInsiderStories) – Indonesian President Joko Widodo has agreed to reinstate the suspended military’s Joint Special Operations Command to assist the National Police to counter terrorism.

The team, which includes personnel of Special Forces from the three branches of the military will be put on standby and be ready to be mobilized at any time when terror threats emerged.

“This joint force was well trained and prepared in terms of its capacity, and it could be deployed anywhere on the country’s soil as fast as possible […]. Its role would be to assist the National Police,” Chief of Staff of the Presidency Moeldoko said last week in the State Palace.

His statement followed a recent string of terrorist attacks that has thrust the country into a state of paranoia.

In the days leading up to Ramadan 2018, Indonesia suffered a spate of terrorist attacks. These were among the worst attacks seen in years and left 48 people dead, including members of two families who carried out suicide bombings in Surabaya.

Indonesia’s changing threat landscape was evident in the repertoire of a series of events, which included a 40-hour prison riot in Depok, near Jakarta, starting on May 8; the stabbing and killing of a police officer at the Mobile Intelligence Unit in Depok on May 10; a triple church attack on May 13, followed by another bombing that night; an attack on a police headquarters in Surabaya on May 14; and a terrorist raid targeting the police headquarters in Pekanbaru, the capital of Riau province.


While the Islamic State (IS) provided general guidance on the tactics and targets, the attacks were perpetrated by Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), the its Indonesian affiliate.

As the support and operational infrastructure of the IS remains intact, Indonesia will need to do two things to fight back.

First, a revision to anti terrorism law to give enhanced powers needed to dismantle terrorist support activity, ranging from propaganda to recruitment, financing and travel.

Second, a shift from counter-terrorism cooperation to collaboration where military, law enforcement and intelligence services exchange personnel, create common databases, conduct joint training and operations, as well as share expertise, resources and experience.

Although Indonesia’s special police detachment (D88) and anti-bombing task force are very capable, they are numerically small compared with the current and emerging numbers of IS sympathizers, supporters and operators.

The IS threat has proliferated from West Papua to Sumatra despite all efforts by D88 to arrest those preparing attacks. The Indonesian law precludes the arrest of IS/JAD ideologues, propagandists, recruiters, operators and supporters unless they mount attacks.

The ideological threat is spreading in cyber space and crystallizing in forming support and operational cells. The IS mastery of technology, especially encryption, has constrained governments from detecting some networks, cells and personalities.