172. Memorandum Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency1


  • covertly Assistance to the Indonesian Armed Forces Leaders
The requests of the Indonesian military leaders for covert assistance in their struggle against the Partai Kommunis Indonesia (PKI), create a definite risk for us of deliberate assistance to a group which cannot be considered a legal government nor yet a regime of proven reliability or longevity. Early assessment of the political direction and longevity of this military leadership must be accomplished and, before any overt or readily visible assistance could be offered, its legal authority as well as its de facto control must be confirmed explicitly. As long as Sukarno fights a clever rear-guard delaying action politically, this is not likely soon to occur.
On the other hand, the Army leaders appear determined to seize the opportunity of the current confused circumstances to break the organizational back of the PKI, to eliminate it as an effective political force, and to prevent emergence of any crypto-Communist successor party. Recent intelligence from within the PKI party ranks clearly indicates that the PKI has begun to abandon hope of salvation through Sukarno’s political legerdemain and has therefore decided it must, however ill-prepared and disorganized, fight back against the Army. Despite the overwhelming military superiority of the Armed Forces, the roots of Communism, of PKI membership, and of mass support nurtured for years by the constant flood of pro-Communist media, are so deep in many areas that the Army is very likely to be faced with a lingering insurgency situation. Specifically, much of Central Java is in very poor shape. Hard intelligence on the area shows a sizeable potential for resistance, and PKI sources indicate plans for a redoubt area there. Considering the economic problems Army leaders will face as they gradually assume more and more authority under their own program for a non-Communist future, the law of rising expectations is against them; they cannot divert popular attention from economic ills as Sukarno has for many years, and the weight of several years neglect of economic problems and realities may fall upon them. Therefore if the PKI can build even small areas of resistance in Central Java and West Sumatra, they will have the ideal bases from which to mount campaigns of harassment, subversion and sabotage as the emergent [Page 362] non-Communist government attempts to grapple with responsibilities already close to overpowering.
In addition, the Army must find some formula for continuing its relationship with Sukarno in a way that will retain real control for themselves without necessitating a preemptive hostile move against Sukarno which might cause him to defy or deny them, and thus provoke divisions in their own ranks. In this insurgency situation therefore, the Army has no real guarantee of ultimate success; hazards to its survival are many and varied.
One of the Army’s major needs will be civilian support. They have instituted psychological warfare mechanisms, control of media prerequisite to influencing public opinion and have harassed or halted Communist output. They have also mobilized certain bases of mass support, especially among Moslems. Unfortunately in these areas where the PKI has been able to initiate an insurgent campaign or local resistance, as in Central Java, the Army has not been able to protect those anti-Communist civilians who have fought the PKI and pro-Communist rebel troops. If this situation continues, the populace in some of these areas may be intimidated from affording aid to the government forces regardless of their convictions, or they will be decimated.
True, the future policy of the Indonesian Army if it should succeed in controlling or eliminating Sukarno as an effective factor is not entirely clear. Two probabilities do however seem fairly significant about its future stance:
It will certainly be less oriented towards Asian Communist Bloc and will be decidedly Nationalist (though not without some Marxist and anti-Western concepts), perhaps with a strong neutralist flavor and hopefully with a concentration upon Indonesia’s internal welfare.
Its future attitude regarding the West and the U.S. in particular will certainly be affected favorably by the degree to which the U.S. can now provide what limited aid the military leaders feel they require in their struggle to survive.
In short, we must be mindful that in the past years we have often wondered when and if the Indonesian Army would ever move to halt the erosion of non-Communist political strength in Indonesia. Now that it has seized upon the fortuitous opportunity afforded by the PKI’s error in the 30 September affair and is asking for covert help as well as understanding to accomplish that very task, we should avoid being too cynical about its motives and its self-interest, or too hesitant about the propriety of extending such assistance provided we can do so covertly, in a manner which will not embarrass them or embarrass our government.
In reviewing the types of assistance which can be provided covertly, we believe that mechanisms exist or can be diverted or created [Page 363] to extend either covert credits for purchases or to deliver any of the types of the materiel requested to date in reasonable quantities. [1–1/2 lines of source text not declassified] The same can be said of purchasers and transfer agents for such items as small arms, medicine and other items requested. [1 line of source text not declassified] wherein we can permit the Indonesians with whom we are dealing to make desired purchases and even indicate to them where items may be purchased without our being in on the direct transaction. Some degree of control can be exercised through these accounts to insure that the letters of credit cannot be misused for other than specified purposes. [2–1/2 lines of source text not declassified] which can be made available on very short notice. [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] equipment would be more expensive and would require a little more time to deliver. It would however probably be more appropriate if equipment is to be handed by Indonesian Army officers to selected civilian auxiliaries.
We do not propose that the Indonesian Army be furnished such equipment at this time. This should be determined only after exhaustive conversations with Sukendro and his associates and, to the extent securely feasible, with Nasution’s subordinates at Djakarta. In these we would probe for necessary details, e.g., precisely why they need additional arms, how they intend to use them, to whom they intend to give them, how they intend to control the release and registration of weapons and to control the groups who receive them, and many other questions.
If the Indonesian Army leadership continues to insist to us that they need this type of assistance to crush the PKI, and even if they furnish the above details, we would still be incurring political risk and the possible risk of loose handling of the arms in satisfying the request. These risks, however, must be weighed against the greater risks that failure to provide such aid which the Army claims it needs to win over the PKI might result in reduction of the Army’s future political position and concomitant erosion of what may be a unique opportunity to ensure a better future for U.S. interests in Indonesia. It is difficult to predict definitively that aid of this type is absolutely vital to that future. If the Army leaders justify their needs in detail, however, it is likely that at least will help ensure their success and provide the basis for future collaboration with the U.S. The means for covert implementation, either of transmittal of funds for necessary purchases or delivery of the requested items themselves in discreet fashion, are within our capabilities.
  1. Source: Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, Indonesia, 1963–1965. Secret.