Indonesia Orders Foreign Troops Out by March
Indonesia announced that U.S. and other foreign troops providing tsunami disaster relief must leave the country by the end of March and ordered aid workers Wednesday to declare their travel plans or face expulsion from devastated Aceh province on Sumatra island. The government’s moves highlight its sensitivities over a foreign military operation in this country Ã¢€” albeit a humanitarian one Ã¢€” and underscore its efforts to regain control of Aceh province, the scene of a decades-old conflict between separatist rebels and federal troops accused of human rights abuses.
The latest restrictions placed on the international presence came as the aircraft carrier leading the U.S. military’s tsunami relief effort steamed out of Indonesian waters Wednesday after the government declined to let the ship’s fighter pilots use its airspace for training missions. The USS Abraham Lincoln’s diversion was not expected to affect aid flights, however. U.S. Marines have also scaled back their plans to send hundreds of troops ashore to build roads and clear rubble. The two sides reached a compromise in which the Americans agreed not to set up a base camp on Indonesia or carry weapons. Instead, the Marines Ã¢€” some 2,000 of whom were diverted to tsunami relief from duty in Iraq Ã¢€” will keep a “minimal footprint” in the country, with most returning to ships at night, said Col. Tom Greenwood, commander of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
9.0 on ungrateful scale — Thanks for the help, but now get out, Indonesian veep tells U.S. soldiers (Corky Siemazko, New York Daily News)
The Indonesian government yesterday showed its appreciation to U.S. soldiers who have been risking their lives helping tsunami victims by ordering them to get out of the country by the end of March. “Three months are enough,” Vice President Jusuf Kalla told the official Antara news agency. “In fact, the sooner [they leave] the better.”
Kalla’s government also forced the Abraham Lincoln, from which Navy pilots have flown dozens of food supply missions to the hard-hit Aceh Province, to steam out of Indonesian waters because they refused to let U.S. pilots fly training missions in their air space. The Indonesians also refused to let the Marines coming ashore rebuild roads, establish a base camp or carry arms.
Lynn Pascoe, the U.S. ambassador to Indonesia, reacted to Kalla’s ingratitude by declaring that American troops will help as long as they were needed and “not a minute later.” But in Washington, White House spokesman Scott McClellan demanded “further clarification from Indonesia about what this means.”
This shouldn’t be surprising, I suppose. Politics tends to trump all in these situations and having Western troops bailing their people out–again– out highlights the incompetence of the local government. The government likely has not forgotten the recent troubles in East Timor, where Western, especially Australian, troops thwarted the government’s attempts to suppress an independence movement. Still, this is rather mindboggling amidst the generosity and goodwill that the natural disaster evoked.