Thwart­ing re­gional ter­ror­ists

Aus­tralia’s role in gather­ing in­tel­li­gence is vi­tal to se­cu­rity

The Weekend Australian - - COMMENTARY -

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.

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