Thwarting regional terrorists
Australia’s role in gathering intelligence is vital to security
Australia’s pledge of support for ASEAN’s major new Our Eyes intelligence-gathering initiative reflects the need for the closest possible co-operation to thwart attempts to establish a regional Islamic State “stronghold”. That threat is serious, according to Indonesia’s Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu, with at least 63 terrorist groups in Southeast Asia that have pledged loyalty to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr alBaghdadi, despite the defeat of his socalled caliphate in the Middle East.
Defence Minister Christopher Pyne, in Jakarta to meet Mr Ryamizard, spoke of Australia providing training and other assistance to Our Eyes and possibly becoming a member. It is also possible the new group could work with the longstanding Five Eyes group, comprising the US, Australia, Britain, Canada and New Zealand, which is one of the world’s most effective intelligence-gathering communities.
Mr Ryamizard warned in Singapore last week that intelligence sharing among countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia and The Philippines had not improved sufficiently since the fivemonth siege by Islamist militants of the city of Marawi in The Philippines. Their ability to hold the city for so long, despite concerted efforts by Philippine forces, shocked regional security chiefs. Mr Ryamizard pointed out that “even after the siege of Marawi, the flow of intelligence relatively has not gone effectively. Had the agencies (from across the region) shared and exchanged intelligence, this attack could have been prevented or pre-empted.” In contrast, he said, US counter-terrorism operations in Syria had killed terrorists planning attacks in Southeast Asia and provided intelligence that disrupted dozens of planned attacks. These, he revealed, included an explosives-laden drone strike on police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, a suicide attack against the presidential palace in Jakarta, and a rocket offensive targeted at the Marina Bay Sands hotel in Singapore.
Such disclosures have left no doubt about the need for Australia, on its own and as part of the Five Eyes group, to provide intelligence assistance.