Building U.S.-Indonesia Mutual Understanding Since 1994

Counter-Terrorism Strategy in Indonesia: Adapting to a Changed Threat

As the nature of terrorism in Indonesia has evolved over the past decade, Indonesia’s counter-terrorism response has evolved accordingly.  The scope and scale of the October 2002 Bali bombing by Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) caused some to hypothesize that Southeast Asia was fast becoming Al Qaeda’s ‘second front.’  Subsequent police investigations led to the unraveling of JI cells and highlighted the increasing effective capacity of the police counter-terrorism team, Special Detachment 88.   In 2009, a splinter group led by Noordin M. Top implemented its own attacks, notably the twin bombings of the Marriott and Ritz-Carlton in 2009,  Top was killed by Indonesian police in 2009.

More recently, according to the US National Counterterrorism Center, “JI’s activities have been overshadowed by the activities of its fragments and other Indonesia-based terrorists.”  Structural changes have occurred within the Indonesian Salafi-Jihadi movement and there have been tactical cleavages within that movement.  Measures to counter radicalization and terrorism apart from police action have become better understood, including both de-radicalization, and the quite different disengagement of radicals from participation in acts of violence.

Our panel will discuss the changes in the nature of terrorism in Indonesia and the response of American and Indonesian counterterrorism strategy, including their perspectives on which strategies have been successful in adapting to the changing security climate.

Shari Villarosa will discuss US engagement with Indonesia in counter-terrorism activities, changing trends in terrorist methods, especially in Indonesia, and how the killing of Osama bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki have affected terrorism and counter-terrorism more generally.

Dr. Julie Hwang will address the current status of Jemaah Islamiyah and its affiliates and splinters, based on her recent fieldwork in Indonesia.  She will discuss the fragmentation and decentralization of the movement; broad trends in the attitudes of these groups regarding the use of terrorist methods; the pathways to radicalization of new members; and explain why some are disengaging from the use of violence.

Please join us November 17th at 10:30a m for this Open Forum, which will enrich our understanding of the current nature of both terrorism and counter-terrorism in Indonesia.