[Marinir] [SMH] Elite (AUS) forces scouted island from April
Yap Hong Gie
ouwehoer at centrin.net.id
Thu Jan 26 17:17:41 CET 2006
SYDNEY MORNING HERALD http://www.smh.com.au/
Elite forces scouted island from April
By IAN HUNTER, in London
Australian special forces and navy divers were scouting the terrain of
East Timor and Indonesian forces deployments inside the territory months
before the actual landing of United Nations-approved peacemakers last
month, a senior Australian defence source has revealed. Members of the
elite Perth-based Special Air Services Regiment and the Royal Australian
Navy's Clearance Diving Team (CDT) have been operating clandestinely on
the island since early this year.
The sole task of the two elite units was reconnaissance in preparation for
a large Australian Defence Force (ADF) deployment.
The SAS's principal subjects have been infrastructure in and around Dili,
Indonesian ground force operations in the hinterland and movements of
military traffic across the West Timor frontier. CDT divers scoured Dili
harbour and nearby anchorages for anti-shipping mines, explosives and
traps. They also surveyed nearby sites in case an amphibious landing
became necessary. From the shore they scouted for Indonesian military
(TNI) and militia obstacles and deployments.
The two units train together off the coast near Perth. While the SAS,
whose strength is put at "over 500" by the Defence Department, stayed at
Swanbourne for the Gulf War, the CDT performed Timor-style work in Kuwait
during that conflict. Their orders did not authorise offensive strikes,
interdiction or sabotage. Deployed by submarine and extracted by
helicopter, they were inserted when the Prime Minister put the
Darwin-based 1 Brigade on 28-day standby in April.
Although the helicopter flights were made at extremely low level to avoid
detection by radar, the TNI did make it known in June that it was aware of
unauthorised intrusions, though it suspected the flights involved covert
weapons shipments to independence fighters.
On June 9, the Indonesian armed forces commander, General Wiranto, ordered
increased naval and air surveillance off the East Timor coast after five
helicopter flights were reported in May and June.
The then East Timor military commander, Colonel Tono Suratman, said there
had been two helicopter landings in the area of Larinkuten, near Viqueque,
of a large helicopter similar to the French-designed Puma. At the same
time as the helicopter landings were reported, a vessel with a helicopter
landing pad had also been sighted off East Timor's coast, he said.
The description fits with the Seahawk helicopters operated from RAN
The covert operations before the creation of the Interfet force are
classified secret and will remain so under the Federal Cabinet's 30-year
A senior ADF special forces and intelligence officer recently said the
small force was observing Indonesian military activity as a necessary
precursor to full-scale deployment. The same tactics were used by the
British SAS during the 1982 Falklands and 1990-91 Gulf wars.
In July the same officer was saying that the official outlook was that the
ADF would deploy shortly and that ensuing peacekeeping and United Nations
stabilisation plans would be similar to those effected in Cambodia in
At that time, he said that ADF headquarters in Canberra expected the
eventual UN-sponsored intervention force to be small and include only a
minimal armed security force. ADF planning did not anticipate an
Australian component as large as 4,500 personnel.
The SAS and CDT cells transmitted constant reports on TNI and militia
activities to ADF headquarters and the ultra-secret Defence Signals
Directorate (DSD), also in Canberra. Only 20 or so people, including the
Prime Minister, were allowed access to these reports and attached
assessments. Most members of Cabinet have not seen them. The job of the
DSD has been to analyse the reports and conclude whether the recent
atrocities were a sustained policy of terror or a violent reaction to
The SAS cells, comprising no more than five troopers, would never have
been in a position to intervene. Such operations would have required the
support of the SAS's Sabre Squadron, which has not seen action since the
In armed contact with the TNI and militia, the general observations,
technical descriptions and assessments of TNI capabilities in Timor have
Major-General Peter Cosgrove, the Interfet leader, inadvertently referred
to the ongoing reconnaissance recently when he said he was interested to
read reports of what the TNI and militia groups were doing in remote and
border areas. The covert surveillance gave the ADF the most comprehensive
intelligence survey of the Indonesian military and paramilitary activity
as the East Timor situation deteriorated mid-year. This has been
uncomfortable knowledge in one respect. United States agencies have
complained to the Australian Ambassador, Mr Andrew Peacock, about being
denied access to Australian reports because they were known to be much
more detailed than anything Washington had.
Mr Peacock declined to forward the reports because the names and
operational deployment details would be compromised.
The US has its navy and the CIA watching the zone. Los Angeles class
submarines are capable of positioning pods called Ivy Bells on underwater
communication links. After a month or two they are retrieved and then
They are believed to have been listening to TNI traffic for as long as the
SAS has been on the island.
Story Picture: Daring to win ... Australian Special Forces soldiers during
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