Home Asian News The Hambali issue in ASEAN-US relations - The Diplomat

The Hambali issue in ASEAN-US relations – The Diplomat


In February, the Pentagon announced it would bring charges against Riduan Isamuddin, the alleged mastermind of the 2002 Bali Bombing in Indonesia. It would mark an anti-climax conclusion for someone who had been called “Osama bin Laden of Southeast Asia. “The person arrested at Guantanamo Bay was.” Last indicted in 2017But in the end the Pentagon dismiss the case The reason is still unknown. Isamuddin continues to threaten the United States as a reminder of the Bush-Cheney legacy of CIA black and torture sites, but also because of its role in complicating U.S. relations with the Association. Southeast Asian countries (ASEAN). His case remains a warning to the United States of working with ASEAN on an equal basis, especially in tense regional security issues.

Riduan Isamuddin, better known by War name Hambali, used to belong to Osama bin Laden Southeast Asia’s top lieutenant, and is the head of the activities of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) affiliated with al-Qaida, the largest Islamic terrorist group in Southeast Asia. From a humble peasant family in West Java, Indonesians traveled for the first time in their life join the Afghan jihad against the Soviet Union from 1987-1990. Although Hambali arrived late in the conflict, he met bin Laden and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed there, forming a friendship that will develop into a future working partnership.

After returning from Afghanistan, Hambali Meet with JI leaders in Malaysia, and has become the international face of the organization. He planned and attended The 2000 al-Qaida Summit in Kuala Lumpur, a gathering of top leaders planning to fund and execute upcoming attacks including the bombing of the USS Cole, the 9/11 attacks and the nightclub bombing Bali.

The Bali Bombing of 2002, which killed 202 people and nearly injured it, put Southeast Asia at the forefront of the War on Terror. The leaders in the United States declared the region to be a “The second front, ”With extreme ideologies promoting the development of safe shelters for terrorism in less regulated spaces such as the southern Philippines and much of Indonesia. These concerns are shared by Southeast Asian leaders, who from Jakarta to Manila see an increase in religious violence as an existential threat to well-built political and economic stability. their kidneys.

ASEAN member states met in Brunei in 2001 to agree General statement after the 9/11 attacks, supporting a unified stance against terrorism and in favor of sharing intelligence in the region. In 2002, after the Bali Bombing, the organization took an unprecedented step in Brunei to sign one Joint Declaration of the United States – ASEAN promises to strengthen “exchange and circulation of information, intelligence and capacity building” on the basis of equality and cooperation.

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The joint statement is a major change in ASEAN’s security policy. ASEAN is an organization established to seek regional solutions to regional problems. Cooperation with the United States is a clear indication that ASEAN welcomes the growing US presence in the region, seeing it as a valuable security partner and not a threat to the US. development of an ASEAN-centered security community. It also underscores a significant shift in US Asia policy towards placing greater value on cooperation through existing regional frameworks rather than pursuing U.S. interests bilaterally or through forums developed by the US such as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).

The first apparent success of this new counterterrorism relationship was in 2003, when a joint operation between the Thai and US governments was successful. Catch Hambali. He hid in a safe house in southern Thailand, a fortified historical area and mostly Muslim. Capture required share wisdom between the governments of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, and the United States, and is done with a combined Thai-American force. Obviously, ASEAN-US cooperation has been effective in addressing the common security threats facing both sides.

This budding ASEAN-US security partnership has, however, been overshadowed by the increasingly secrecy, legally disputed nature of the War on Terror. USA unilateral extradition of Hambali to a series of secret prison locations around the world, refusing to share information about his whereabouts with any other state. Finally, three years after his arrest, the United States admitted that Hambali was being held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Almost immediately, the Indonesian government request access to their citizens to make sure he gets access to a fair trial, but that is the requirement continuously denied. The needs are similar Malaysia, the Philippines and even Australia also denied, created a regional perception that the United States was not seriously committed to equal cooperation, despite a 2002 joint statement.

In other words, the reality of the ASEAN-US security partnership confirms the organization’s worst fears. Ultimately, Washington needs ASEAN to help them find terrorists, advance the War on Terrorism, and pursue its broader security interests in Southeast Asia. ASEAN does not need to be an equal ally or partner, abandoning the notion that ASEAN is simply an instrument in its global counterterrorism strategy.

This unequal relationship only continues to create severe tensions across the Pacific. At the urging of Australia, the US Attorney General at that time John Ashcroft visited Indonesia in 2004 to meet with then President Megawati to resolve the Hambali issue. There, Aschroft pleaded with ASEAN countries double their cooperation on anti-terrorism issues. But when pressed by Megawati about Hambali, Ashcroft concluded that he was “cannot give a timeframe“To know when Indonesia can reach the consulate. However, in 2005, Washington urged Indonesia to heavily prosecute terrorist suspects and sympathizers out of concern that Jakarta would only condemn it lightly. This seems to contradict their own supposed partnership: ASEAN states are expected to put terrorists on trial but do not have any access to those subjected to by the United States. detention.

Then it may be surprising that ASEAN countries showed little interest in Hambali when he was tried again. Indonesia as early as 2016 pointed out that it do not want to receive Hambali, claiming that his return could revive terrorist networks in the country at a time when the country is fighting new cells inspired by the Islamic State (IS). According to its Indonesian lawyer, Jakarta claims Hambali also technically not state because he was arrested without identification. For his part, his lawyer insisted they want to see Hambali return to Indonesia. Malaysia has shown even less interest; Its counterterrorism director recently endorsed the new test, calling it “good moveThe United States let Hambali date him in court (of course, the military).

The current lack of interest in Hambali may be fueled by domestic pressure. Stuck between economic development efforts and a response to the growing Islamic conservatism in the region, leaders like Indonesia’s Joko “Jokowi” Widodo simply don’t want to deal with these the terrorist has been forgotten for as long as Hambali. But his story is still instructive about the future of ASEAN and ASEAN-US policy.

On the one hand, the Hambali case shows that ASEAN needs the United States as a partner to support its regional security interests. Washington has unique capabilities to help develop the domestic security capabilities of ASEAN member states, and even coordinate complex operations, such as the arrest of Hambali. Without the assistance of US operations and intelligence, it is unlikely that any ASEAN activity would successfully find or capture Hambali. As a result, the United States does have an active and important role in helping ASEAN form its own security community.

At the same time, the Hambali case is a symbol of greater failures in US security cooperation both in nature and in tone. The United States built an important, strong security partnership with ASEAN after 9/11, then allowed it to de facto be eliminated after it refused to cooperate on the Hambali case. For ASEAN members, Hambali is a frequent reminder of the possibility of the United States failing to fulfill its stated goals of real cooperation with ASEAN. While particular interest in Hambali may have disappeared, it leaves a dangerous precedent in the region that can be easily applied to critical security threats such as China’s military build-up. area. East Sea and trying to control Mekong River. If the US cannot see ASEAN as equal after an act of counterterrorism, how can ASEAN expect the US to view ASEAN as equal in what it claims to be a competitive powerhouse spanning decades?

Finally, the Hambali case shows the need for reforms in ASEAN-US policy. ASEAN countries want the United States to participate deeply in Southeast Asian security, only on more equal terms. Washington must be aware of that fact. If Administration Biden truly wanting a collaborative approach to Asian security built on its “allies”, ASEAN must share equally in any security partnership. ASEAN must be included if the US hopes to advance its regional security agenda.

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