Use Jakarta attacks as impetus to ramp up fight against terror

Indonesian national police chief General Badrodin Haiti (right) and spokesperson Major-General Anton Charliyan displaying the handguns used by militants in the Jakarta attack on Friday. Photo: AP




On Jan 14, four Indonesian militants mounted a lunchtime grenade-and-firearm assault on a Starbucks cafe and a police post near Sarinah Mall in downtown Jakarta. The general area has government offices, shopping malls and eateries as well as a United Nations office and the United States Embassy. The attackers were killed by the security forces, but three civilians, including one Canadian, died in the firefight. Twenty others were injured, including four foreigners.

Indonesian police remarked that the modus operandi of the Jakarta militants appeared reminiscent of the devastating Paris assault by Islamic State-directed mobile squads last November, in which 130 people were killed. It eventually emerged that the Jakarta attack was apparently directed by Muhammad Bahrun Naim, an Indonesian extremist blogger and activist with ties to local terrorist networks. Naim is also allegedly a leading figure within the Syria-based Katibah Nusantara unit, comprising largely Indonesian and Malaysian fighters, and part of Islamic State (IS) — the hyper-violent hybrid terrorist/insurgent entity that controls swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq. In his blogs, Naim had praised the Paris attacks and had sent funds to an emerging IS cell in Solo to carry out a similar operation in the Indonesian capital.

Although the casualty toll was (thankfully) paltry compared to the Paris incident, the Jakarta attack should be viewed as a statement of intent that Indonesia and regional governments should heed, for two reasons.

First, aside from its importance for global maritime trade, South-east Asia is home to a quarter of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslim population and is thus a natural “strategic reserve” for IS. The IS leader, Abu Bakr Baghdadi, seeks not merely to consolidate the Islamic caliphate within its current Levantine (territorial) epicentre, but also, however improbably, expand it worldwide.

In this connection, South-east Asia has been targeted for incorporation within the imperial designs of the IS leadership. Some argue that South-east Asian “Islam with a smiling face” — exemplified by the well-known progressive Indonesian mass organisations Muhammadiyah and Nahdlatul Ulama, who between them boast tens of millions of members — is well placed to deal with the violent Islamist fringe represented by IS and its ilk. Such sanguine assumptions are misplaced.

Regional bastions of (authentic) South-east Asian Islam have in recent times been engaged in a rearguard struggle against what is sometimes called “Wahhabi colonialism” — a reference to the so-called “desert Islam” being circulated in Indonesia and the wider region by a network of religious and educational institutions as well as pressure groups funded by Middle Eastern donors.

The rigidly puritanical fundamentalism of Wahhabism arguably sustains the virulent IS ideology — so effectively disseminated worldwide across diverse social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. It would be unwise to imagine that this intertwined theological and ideological challenge to South-east Asian Islam can be addressed in ad hoc fashion.

The second concern is the militants’ indirect strategy. In its statement claiming the Jakarta attacks, IS declared that its “soldiers of the caliphate” had struck a blow against “the crusader alliance”. This meant that foreign nationals of the countries in the US-led coalition currently bombing IS positions in Iraq and Syria were targeted in the Indonesian capital. The apparent targets in the attack — Starbucks and the Sarinah Mall — are certainly frequented by Westerners.

This strategy of avoiding superior coalition military strength in the Levant and attacking its interests in areas of relative weakness, such as (ill-defended) soft targets in South-east Asia, is not new. It is an application of the well-worn “indirect approach”, long known to military strategists from Sun Tzu to Liddell Hart. Paris was one application of this strategy; Jakarta is now another. IS may well be compensating for its steadily deteriorating strategic situation in Iraq and Syria in the face of coalition military pressure by upping the ante overseas.


As far as South-east Asia is concerned, the IS indirect strategy can be operationalised in three ways. First, returning IS fighters could be recruited to mount new attacks. Second, Syria-based IS leaders could co-opt from a distance sympathetic individual freelance militants and existing cells such as MIT in Indonesia and Abu Sayyaf in the southern Philippines, turning them into operational adjuncts of IS.

The Jakarta attacks arguably represent this modus operandi as Naim apparently funded and directed a Solo-based cell to undertake the attacks. Third, IS could again from afar encourage relatively less sophisticated lone wolf attacks against coalition nationals. Moreover, lone wolves could also be self-radicalised “insiders”, from commercial airline pilots as seen in Indonesia and armed forces and even airport screening personnel in Malaysia, to national servicemen in Singapore. The IS indirect threat is multi-faceted and ignored at our peril.

A two-pronged response seems apposite. First, the real-time physical threat needs to be addressed through various means. These include enhanced intelligence exchange on terrorist identities, movements and funding pipelines between and within governments in the region and with key foreign partners; capacity-building programmes to help regional countries reduce their susceptibility to penetration by IS and affiliated groups; and finally, calibrated force twinned with enhanced legal frameworks to deal nimbly with rapidly emerging cells, as well as newly released militants who may still pose a residual threat.

Second, the underlying conditions that give rise to the physical threat also require policy measures. These include better political and socio-economic governance to diminish the grievances that IS extremism feeds upon and wider understanding of the drivers of radicalisation into IS extremism. Expanded grassroots awareness of the attitudinal and behavioural indicators of self-radicalisation into violent extremism is needed.

Finally, intensified regional and international exchanges of best practices in counter-ideological and related theological efforts to defeat IS extremism online or offline is required. In sum, nothing radically new is required. Rather, as British general Sir Gerald Templer asserted decades ago, what is really needed is that existing methods are applied at a higher tempo and much more effectively.



Kumar Ramakrishna is Associate Professor and Head of Policy Studies in the Office of the Executive Deputy Chairman, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS). This piece first appeared in RSIS Commentaries.


Sumber: Todayonline, 25 Januari 2016


Apa yang terjadi dengan serangan bom Jakarta 14 Januari ternyata telah membangunkan Asia Tenggara akan ancaman terorisme khususnya Singapura. Sebelumnya, antara November dan awal Desember 2015 Singapura telah melakukan pengangkapan 27 radikal Banglades.

Apa yang terjadi dengan serangan bom Jakarta 14 Januari ternyata telah membangunkan Asia Tenggara akan ancaman terorisme khususnya Singapura. Sebelumnya, antara November dan awal Desember 2015 Singapura telah melakukan pengangkapan 27 radikal Banglades. Sementara di Malaysia tujuh orang yang diduga sebagai anggota kelompok ISIS telah ditangkap pertengahan bulan ini.

Tidak heran kalau harian terkemuka Singapura, the Strait Times, edisi 26 Januari mengangkat beberapa tulisan disamping berita tentang ancaman ini, diantaranya: