Special forces from the ten members of the Association of the Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and eight partner countries have agreed to take their co-operation to a higher level after participating in a five-day joint counterterrorism exercise at the Indonesian Peace and Security Center (IPSC) in Sentul, on the southern outskirts of Jakarta.
The joint exercise, which involved nearly 600 military personnel from the Asia Pacific region, concluded September 13th with counterterrorism drills conducted by special forces from the three branches of the Indonesian military.
"This exercise is a warning to the terrorists. If they do something, they will face our special forces, which are united to counter terrorism and transnational crimes," Indonesian Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro said at a press briefing.
The ministry's spokesman, Brigadier General Sisriadi, said the drills included hostage release simulations on board a liquefied natural gas tanker and a multi-story building.
"The hostage release simulation was held on the IPSC's artificial lake as if it was on international waters. It was a joint operation with other countries," he told Khabar Southeast Asia on September 16th.
Counterterrorism "a new priority"
As host country, Indonesia had the biggest delegation, with 405 personnel, followed by the United States with 32 and China with 19, to the first-ever joint counterterrorism drill involving 18 countries.
The exercise was opened September 9th by Indonesian military chief General Moeldoko and US Ambassador to ASEAN David Carden, as co-chairs of the ASEAN Defense Ministers' Meeting (ADMM) Plus working group on counterterrorism.
The working group was established during the inaugural ADMM Plus meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam in 2010.
The ADMM Plus is a regional forum for defense ministers from ten ASEAN member countries and their counterparts from Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, South Korea, and the United States.
"We saw counterterrorism as a new priority when we met in Hanoi in 2010," defense minister Purnomo told reporters. He said the exercise would help foster contacts among military personnel as the field operators of counterterrorism efforts. In the past, such contacts existed mainly at the ministerial or official levels.
An evolving threat
In his opening remarks on September 9th, General Moeldoko warned about the new form of terrorism that has shifted from traditional patterns to modern ones in which actions are conducted separately and independently.
"They operate in a linear, obscure, and separate pattern without knowing their supervisors or subordinates," he said.
He added that the new methods gave rise to the "phantom cell network" in which disparate cells with the same ideological goals operate to achieve their objectives.
The general also said no single country in the world is able to cope with their challenges alone; therefore, countries must work together to tackle counterterrorism through a "productive framework" such as the ADMM Plus working group's exercise on counterterrorism.
"This exercise has to be explored not only by enhancing individual tactics and cooperation between units but also by improving the capability to supply data and analysis. Hence, the joint exercise has to be realistic to meet the objectives to combat terrorism," Moeldoko said.