On February 1998, Osama bin Laden and other Islamic extremists announced a fatwa, a religious declaration in Islam, and proclaimed it the religious duty of all Muslims, “to kill the Americans and their allies civilians and military - is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which has the possibilities to occur, in order to liberate the al-Aqsa Mosque (in Jerusalem) and the holy mosque (in Makka) from their grip, and in order for their armies to move out of all the lands of Islam, defeated and unable to threaten any Muslim. This is in accordance with the words of Almighty Allah, and fight the pagans all together as they fight you all together, and fight them until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in Allah” (Bin Laden, Osama 1998). Bin Laden and his group aggressively opposed the United States particularly because they believed the United States as an infidel. The country is run in a democratic liberal system and not governed in the group's extremist interpretation of Islam. Moreover, the United States was viewed as the essential supporter for other “infidel” governments and institutions, such as Israel, the governments of Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and the United Nations Organization, which they also believed as the enemies of the group. The United States government also opposed by the group because of the arrest and imprisonment of persons belonging to al Qaeda and its other affiliated terrorist groups. Therefore, he called the country as “enemies of God” and as far as he concerned both civilian and military are all the targets (USA District Court Indictment : 50).
Back in 1988, Bin Laden established radical Sunni Islamist organization named al-Qaeda. The ideological and beliefs of this group are to keep Islam in their own traditional interpretation and eliminate foreign influence in Muslim countries. He believed that Islam should not be associated and Muslim should not form a relationship with those who are infidels. He extremely opposed the establishment of a country based on modern Islamic and turn Al Qaeda into a universal threat to U.S. national security. Bin Laden finally declared a jihad against United States, which literally means struggle in the way of God, but being interpreted as a holy suicide war against non-Muslim combatants (USA District Court Indictment 2007: 50).
Al Qaeda dedicated itself to oppose “non-Islamic” government with threats and violence. The organization was headquartered in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and moving from Sudan. The group expanded and grew rapidly throughout the world and keeps recruiting and training variety of people to accomplish their mission to attack anything related to U.S. They have maintained offices in various parts of the world, mostly in the county with major population of Muslims. By 1990s, the organization has become the root to the majority of radical Islam groups throughout the world and located in over 70 countries, especially in Muslim countries.
As a country with more than 200 millions people and home to the biggest Muslim population, Indonesia becomes the biggest potential terrorist base especially in Southeast Asia region. This is also in accord with the fact that the country is run by a central government, corrupt officials, and also has floundering economy and loosely regulated financial system. The country is also having a serious problem in poverty and low level of education which brings the terrorist to choose Indonesia as the strategic base for terrorism (Journey, PF. 2005).
However, Indonesia also proudly indicates that the majority of the Muslims in the country are tolerant moderate and not an Islamic state. It is run by democratic government that guarantees freedom of religion for all the citizens, but despite these favorable conditions, several radical Muslim organizations still have gained powers throughout the country. To name a few, there is Laskar Jihad, which trained thousand volunteers for military and sent them to Maluku to create communal violence for separatist movement. Front Pembela Islam (Islamic Defenders Front), which occasionally attacks bars and nightclubs and believed that such entertainment places are contradictive with the teaching of Islam, therefore must be closed. Indonesian Mujahidin Council, which has the mission to turn Indonesia into an Islamic state. And last but not least, Jemaah Islamiyah, which is believed to be the Southeast wing of al-Qaeda (Kuppuswamy, C. S. 2005).
More than 14,000 pesantrens (Islamic school) are established in Indonesia and most of them teach moderate perception of Islam. Only five schools teach radical interpretation of Islam and also recruited and trained extremists. The radical schools are believed closely linked to and funded by Jemaah Islamiyah (JI). Their goal is to establish an Islamic state in Indonesia and encompass Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the southern Philippines and southern Thailand to be operated under the banner of Islam. Since the mid 1990s, the group had pursued their ambition by using violent radical movement, such as suicide bombing which they interpret as jihad (Kuppuswamy, C. S. 2005).
Jemaah Islamiyah is lead by Abu Bakar Bashir, a group's spiritual leader and also operational leader. He was imprisoned in Indonesia for Islamist activism, but fled to Malaysia to avoid the court order. He then recruited volunteers to fight in the anti-soviet Muslim brigades in Afghanistan. Bashir returned to Indonesia to run a radical Islam pesantren in Solo while maintaining connections with former colleagues in Indonesia. He also continued as a leader in an Islamic umbrella group called Indonesian Mujahedeen Council. This group also suspected to have attacked against U.S. and western targets around Southeast Asia (Council on Foreign Relations 2005). Abu Bakar Bashir is not only the man behind Jemaah Islamiyah. Riduan Isamuddin (better known as Hambali) is also the most influential person in Jemaah Islamiyah. He is the leader of the group and also suspected to be the al Qaeda's operations director for East Asia. Other most wanted terrorists in Southeast Asia, Azhari Husin, also known as Dr. Azhari, along with Mohammed Noordin Top are allegedly behind several anti-America attacks in Indonesia. Azhari is an engineer and expert in making bombs, whereas Top is well known as a potential recruiter for people to do the suicide bombing (BBC 2004).
The group is evidenced to be affiliated with several terrorist strikes in Indonesia including the several church bombings in Indonesia for their response in anti-Christian campaign. The worst is the devastating Bali Bombing that killed 202 people and injured more than 209 people. Two bombs were blast each inside the nightclub Paddy's Bar and the more powerful one is hidden inside a white van outside the Sari club, killed 88 Australian tourists, 38 Indonesians, and the remaining of 76 people coming from different parts of countries (O'Brien, Adam. 2005).
The mastermind of the bombing is a member of Jemaah Islamiyah, Ali Gufron, who has been sentenced to death. He believed that he would die as a martyr in a holy war because in his belief and he illustrated the Bali bombing as “an act of vengeance for America's tyranny against Muslims in the Middle East.” He also termed himself as a “small-fry terrorist” compared to “big fish” such as U.S. President George Bush. Other important suspects are Ali Amrozi bin Haji Nurhasyim (Amrozi), Gufron's younger brother, who admitted to owning the van used to bomb and to buying explosives, Abdul Aziz (better known as Imam Samudra) who was the bombing “field commander”, Ali Imron who admitted on helping to plan the Bali attack, Dr Azahari bin Husin who was well-known as the JI's top bomb making expert, and Amar Usmanan (a.k.a Dulmatin) who helped build the bombs (BBC 2004).
This radical Islamic group is finally listed as a terrorist organization under Indonesian Law. This considered illegal for people to provide financial and other support for this group, but the group still receives financial support from many Middle Eastern organizations including Al Qaeda. The fund is provided by Al Qaeda in order for JI to keep expanding and maintaining its movement in attacking the western interests, and also to recruit new members especially throughout Southeast Asia (O'Brien, Adam. 2005).
After 9/11, the U.S. government begins to have a stronger concern in the war against terrorism and building strategy toward solving the problems. The government began to increase and emphasize cooperation to another country and work through the review of foreign policy. Two primary concerns were finally addressed, that is about strengthening military capacity both inside and outside country and consolidating democratic governance. The goals are to achieve a safe and secure international environment through the developing world (Phillips, David L 2002). Indonesia is believed to be one of the major terrorism targets over the last few years. With many terrorism activities and Islamist movements that threatens the social ties and killed many innocent local and foreign people, the country is pressured by international to start working hard in the fight against terrorism. The government of U.S. with the same goals to encounter terrorism cooperates together in stopping these terrorism activities. Under the same interests, Marie Huhtala, deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs stated that United States builds U.S. foreign policy that highlighted more in the importance of democracy that leads to global peace. U.S. is making every effort to help and support Indonesia in achieving this goal (Human Right Watch 2003).
Indonesia, however, is not a cooperative country that could easily help the U.S. in the fight against terrorism. As a country with largest population of Muslim, Indonesia government doesn't have full support from its citizens to counter terrorism. Many Muslims in Indonesia have misconception towards U.S. objectives in fighting and preventing terrorism. They believe that U.S. action is a form of anti-Islam and wants to discord the unity of Islam throughout the country. Moreover, this country is run by inept central government and having a serious problem in corruption. This problem results to uncontrolled government's infrastructure and military forces system, extreme inconsistent legal system, and lack of transparency central and local state institutions. The military's history has been flawed by the violations of human rights as well as impunity, leaving the Army force with negative public image without trust from the public (Raslan, Karim 2003).
This condition gave Indonesia big pressure from the U.S. government to correct all the internal problems in order to achieve the goals of U.S. government to fight and prevent terrorism throughout the world. The two countries finally agreed to build strong bilateral relationship with emphasizes on military, economic, legal system, education to promote regional stability and prosperity. U.S. stated that the diversity of the Indonesia is a source of strength that should be the key in combating terrorism. Both countries assured to build the cooperation on this conviction as a basis for consolidating the bonds between the two countries and for establishing a new era of cooperation that is based on common interests (Bush, George W and Megawati Soekarno Putri 2001).
Based on the joint statement between the two countries, on September 19, 2001, George W. Bush and former Indonesia president Megawati Soekarno Putri stated the U.S.-Indonesia relationship that is based on mutual value and equitable partnership for the national benefits of both countries. They tried to work together to build a strong and deep relationship in order to promote world peace and freedom especially by focusing on military and economic ties. Both presidents agreed that the terrorism should not impact to innocent civilians as well as to associate it with religion. They also highlight that terrorism is a violation against all religion belief and therefore both countries should cooperate to enhance inter-religion dialogue to start building understanding with respect to all kinds of religion in the world (Bush, George W. and Megawati Soekarno Putri 2001).
First, the major agreement between U.S. and Indonesia is in military cooperation. President Bush restated that strong military is the key to the process in becoming strong democracy country and especially in combating terrorism. Both U.S. and Indonesia agreed to increase reasonable contacts and arrange regular meetings between their respective militaries to promote Indonesia's efforts at a military reform and proficiency. Future activities will include Indonesian participation in a variety of multilateral exercises, international conferences, subject matter exchanges on issues such as military restructuring, law, investigations, security, budget transparency and also humanitarian assistance and joint relief operations (Bush, George W and Megawati Soekarno Putri 2001).