11. November 2000
Kostrad’s grip on the Indonesian army is further tightened as the force prepares for further military engagement in Eastern Indonesia.
By Ingo Wandelt
The latest military reshuffle continues the trend to shift former Kostrad officers to the center of power of the Indonesian army (TNI-AD). The network of generals of this most powerful of the TNI’s Main Command Forces (Kotama) has increased its influence since the downfall of former president Suharto enormously and today holds important top positions in the army’s command structure. To have a Kostrad pedigree seems to guarantee an officer’s rise through the ranks.
Kostrad is the Indonesian army’s main mobile force with a troop strength of 25.638 men (numbers given to the press in April), still below its regular strength of 27.828 men. As a curious phenomenon, the forces’ acronym stands for two quite different names, either Komando Strategis TNI-Angkatan Darat or Army Strategic Command, or Komando Cadangan Strategis TNI-Angkatan Darat, Army Strategic Reserve Command, under which the force was established back in 1963. Nowadays Kostrad is structured into two infantry divisions 1 and 2, which each consisting of three, respectively four infantry brigades. Battalions of approximately 650 men form Kostrad’s operational and combat units.
Former commanders of Kostrad in high positions include:
- Djamari Chaniago, Chief of the General Staff (Kasum TNI), former Kostrad Commander (Pangkostrad) and Chief of Infantry Division 2 (Pangdivif 2)
- Agus Widjoyo, Head of the TNI’s Territorial Staff (Kaster TNI), a former commander of the Airborne Infantry Brigade 17 / Kujang
- Djadja Suparman, Commander of the TNI Staff and Command School (Sesko TNI), Pangkostrad in 1999-2000
- Johny Lumintang, Gouverneur of the National Defence Institute, Lemhanas, former Pangkostrad and Pangdivif 1
But Kostrad’s main protagonists are two generals who have reached top positions quite recently:
First, there is the new Kostrad Commander, Ryamizard Ryacudu, who in August replaced Agus Wirahadikusumah, the reformist general and close confident of President Abdurrahman Wahid. Agus WK exposed massive irregularities in the use Kostrad funds in the forces’ foundation Yayasan Dharma Putera. Ryamizard has virtually grown up inside Kostrad and fast made it to the top in four years. He has served as Chief of Staff of Kostrad Division 2 (1997), Chief of Staff of Military Command (Kodam) II/Sriwijaya (08/97 – 04/98), Pangdivif 2 (04/98 – 07/98), Kostrad Chief of Staff (Kas Kostrad) (07/98 – 01/99), Commander of Kodam V / Brawijaya (01/99 – 11/99), and Commander of Kodam Jaya / Jakarta (11/99 – 08/00). He must have powerful patrons who seem to regard him worth for even higher positions. Ryamizard, born 1950 and a graduate of the military academy class of 1974, still has five years of service ahead of him until he reaches the age of retirement. Given the TNI’s fast frequency of command reshuffles, in which command positions hardly hold longer than a year, Ryamizard is definitely a man destined to reach the very top. It can be assumed that his patrons spare him to step into the shoes of former Kostrad Commander (1996-1997), the retired General Wiranto.
Secondly, we have the Army Chief of Staff Endriartono Sutarto, appointed last October, who served as Chief of Staff of the Airborne Infantry Brigade 17 under commander Agus Widjoyo (now the TNI’s Territorial Chief and mentor of a stronger role of the armed forces in state and society). Sutarto replaced Tyasno Sudarto who was allegedly involved in a counterfeit money operation to finance the pro-Indonesian militias in East Timor in 1999. Certainly not a man with a great deal of a Kostrad pedigree, Sutarto is an officer with wide service experience in all areas of the army’s duties, including administration, education, and he was even commander of the Presidential Security Guard. A man able to build and cultivate relations among the internal factions of the army.
Kostrad’s rise to the top of the army was initially not against the intentions of President Wahid. Having ousted the powerful TNI chief, general Wiranto, the president needed the support of Kostrad, which also formed Wiranto’s base of power. It was Wiranto who sidelined Prabowo Subianto in October 1998, son-in-law of former President and army Supreme Commander Suharto, who appointed Prabowo as Pangkostrad in March 1998. Besides belonging to the inner circle of Suharto’s confidents, for Kostrad’s internal old bosy’ network Prabowo was too much a man of Kostrad’s rival force Kopassus to be acceptable as Kostrad commander. Wiranto cleansed Kostrad not only from Suharto’s, but also from Kopassus’ influence, and paved the way for structural reforms which paved the way for Kostrad’s rise to the army’s top positions. Although formally retired, Kostrad still forms the backbone of Wiranto’s power in Indonesian politics.
Kostrad’s combat duties
In February, Kostrad was given the green light by President Wahid to conduct the Operasi Sadar Rencong III to crush the the Acehnese separatist movement Gerakan Aceh Merdeka. Kostrad undertook a wide range of combat measures in close co-operation with the Police elite force Brimob (Brigade Mobil). This two-pronged approach to regional unrest became a sort of hallmark for Kostrad, especially since it re-establishes a style of combined operations between major forces of the army and the police, which officially are placed under different commands since April 1999.
During the course of the year, Kostrad’s combat duties – and Brimob’s as well – were enlarged to cover all areas of unrest in Indonesia, with a visible concentration of troops in Eastern Indonesia. In October, Kostrad’s Head of Staff Willem da Costa, reported to the press that “of about 25.000 soldiers of Kostrad, as many as 16.000 are in areas of operation as the Moluccas and the Northern Moluccas (six battalions), Irian Jaya (three battalions) and Nusa Tenggara Timur. Meanwhile there (in Aceh) are no more Kostrad soldiers on duty there.” (Kompas Cyber Media, 13.10.2000)
Kostrad has a virtually free hand in their areas of operation. Gus Dur has never raised his voice against this elite force.
Recently, the units formerly deployed in Aceh must to have been shifted to Papua, where a heavy presence of Kostrad units was reported from August onwards. This heavy strain on Kostrad capabilities was deplored by Ryamizard in late September during a troops inspection: “Ideally, Kostrad should have about 27.000 personnel, but we only have 89 percent of that figure.” (Jakarta Post 27.10.00)
Wahid intended to make Agus Wirahadikusumah (WK) head of Kostrad, a goal he reached in March. Agus WK was ideally suited for the job, for he had the right credentials. He has served in several Kostrad positions and was widely regarded as one of the bright Indonesian officers.
But Wahid’s plan to re-structure the army with the help of Kostrad backfired. It was especially Agus WK’s outspoken wish to dissolve the army’s territorial structure was sure to find the strongest resistance of Kostrad, as this mobile force needs the regional Kodam as docking stations and bases for logistical support for their combat duties in the daerah (areas).
Finally, the President was helpless against the united power of Kostrad’s officers network to replace Agus WK. But he even lost his influence on the Army Chief of Staff (Kasad) position. Besides Tyasno replacement in October by Sutarto, the Deputy Army Chief of Staff (Wakasad), it took another month until Kostrad’s silent support lifted Kiki Syahnakri into the position of the Wakasad.
Kiki Syahnakri is not a Kostrad man, at least as far as his visible career path reveals. He virtually grew up in East Timor, and became known to the world as Commander of the East Timor Korem (military region command) 164 / Wira Dharma in 1994. At that time he had already reached the age of 46. In November 1999 he went on to become commander of Kodam IX / Udayana after Indonesian troops had left East Timor. It must be assumed that during his stints in East Timor he has established close relationships with Kostrad and has made an impression in handling the pro-Indonesian militias in West Timor after the Atambua massacre in September. Looking at his military career path, Kiki’s main abilities and experience lie in combat and warfare. He is a man of war.
The reshuffle reveals Kostrad’s still high interest in the island of Timor as a whole. Kiki’s position of Military Area Commander of Kodam IX / Udayana is handed to Willem T. da Costa, a Kupang-born Timorese, dyed-in-the-wool Kostrad man with military experience in East Timor. He had been Chief of the Udayana Command, became commander of Kostrad Infantry Division 2, then Kostrad Chief of Staff. Certainly he will serve Kostrad’s interests in the Udayana Command.
Udayana’s Chief of Staff, Mahidin Simbolon, will become commander of Infantry Division 2, a position which will qualify him for a future stint as Kostrad Chief of Staff. Simbolon took over Kiki’s position as Commander of Korem 164 / Wira Dharma in 1995.
So, the old East Timor hands are back on top of the army. What that means for Indonesia and its relations towards an independent East Timor, remains to be seen.<>