Cablegate: Recent U.S. Support for Reforming Timor-Leste's Security

DE RUEHDT #0239/01 2670904
R 230904Z SEP 08




E.O. 12958: N/A

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1. The Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies (APCSS)
convened a workshop September 8-12 to assist the development of
Timor-Leste's first national security policy. The workshop
brought to Hawaii seventeen Timorese leaders and stakeholders,
including the vice prime minister and parliamentarians from
across the political spectrum, as well as observers from key
partners such as the UN, Australia, Indonesia, and Portugal.
Utilizing an innovative method of facilitation, the APCSS
enabled the Timorese to carefully assess their national
interests, threats and possible responses. The discussions were
remarkably free of contention or dispute, and marked by serious,
sustained and constructive interventions by all participants.
The Timorese left with a strengthened understanding of their
national interests and challenges, an intent to move their
discussions promptly to the national parliament for
consideration, and with gratitude to the U.S. for organizing the
conference. The government will use the workshop's outcomes to
finalize a national security policy that will provide direction
to legal and institutional reform of Timor's police and
military. There remains great scope for future contributions by
the U.S. to reform of Timor-Leste's security sector, including
by the U.S. Pacific Command and APCSS. Key focal points must be
the much-needed strengthening and professionalization of the
military and police, vital undertakings to the establishment of
lasting stability in Timor-Leste. End summary.


2. The security sector has been a major source of instability
for Timor-Leste since its independence in 2002. The military
(F-FDTL) largely constitutes the remnants of the Timorese
guerrilla force that mounted the armed resistance to the 24 year
Indonesian occupation that ended in 1999; although enjoying
substantial confidence and much local prestige (mixed with a
good dose of fear as well), it has not been able yet to
transform itself into a small, modern, professional,
well-organized, well-disciplined force able to protect Timor's
citizens and positively contribute to the nation's development.
The police force (PNTL) is an astonishingly poorly resourced,
badly structured, untrained, ill-led and under-respected
institution, with correspondingly low morale and weak sense of
duty. The roles, missions and responsibilities of the two
organizations are opaque and civilian control at best uncertain.
Institutional rivalries occasionally have found violent
expression. In 2006, during a major political crisis that left
a tenth of the population homeless, the police and military fell
into open warfare against each other in the streets of Dili.
The two forces cooperated relatively well following the February
11, 2008, shootings of the President and Prime Minister, but
their joint operation was tarnished by a series of human rights
violations and abuses of authority.

3. Especially since 2006, security sector reform has become a
major focus of concern among Timor-Leste's international
partners. Support of reform is a key component of the UN
mandate in Timor, and bilateral partners such as Australia,
Portugal and New Zealand are making significant investments
toward strengthening the two security institutions, as well the
complementary justice sector. The Timorese leadership also
recognizes the importance of security sector reform, and upon
coming to power in August 2007, the Gusmao government declared
security sector reform to be one of its priorities. That said,
the government's actions since have been tentative.

How can the U.S. Assist?

4. Given the critical importance of stability to Timor's
economic and social development, and the necessity of reforming
the security sector to achieving stability, Embassy Dili since
mid-2007 has been exploring how best to enhance our support in
favor of reform. The U.S. Pacific Command, beginning with a
visit by Admiral Timothy Keating to Dili in September 2007, also
repeatedly has expressed to the Timorese authorities its
commitment to assist.

5. One area of substantial weakness is the legal infrastructure
governing the security sector. As cited in a recent survey by

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the Defense Institute for International Legal Studies, major
gaps include the absence of a national security policy; laws to
provide a clear separation of missions and responsibilities for
the police and military; a military judicial system; established
criteria for recruitment, promotion and retirement; and
regulations providing for effective discipline by military
commanders over their troops. The Gusmao government also
recognizes these shortcomings and made strengthening the legal
underpinnings of its security institutions a priority in its
initial legislative policy program of September 2007. The
government said it would begin by drafting the country's first
ever national security policy (NSP). The NSP, once it
articulated the country's national interests, the threats to
those interests, and how best to counter those threats, would
provide a guide to defining the roles and missions of the
Timor's police and military, plus its customs, immigration and
intelligence services. Laws and regulations defining the
functions and operations of these institutions would follow in

Developing Timor's First National Security Strategy
--------------------------------------------- ------------------

6. The secretary of state for security, Francisco Guterres, and
his staff began work on a draft NSP earlier this year. In May
2008, during a meeting with U.S. Pacific Commander Keating,
Timor's foreign minister asked for U.S. assistance in drafting
the policy. PACOM in turn requested the Asia Pacific Center for
Security Studies (APCSS) to explore how best to provide support.
In extended consultations with both Guterres and Embassy Dili,
the APCSS proposed convening a workshop for senior Timorese
leadership and other key domestic and international stakeholders
targeted at developing a national security policy. The four day
workshop took place at the APCSS in Honolulu September 9-12 and
included members of the Timor-Leste government, including the
drafter of the NSP; seven members of the national parliament
representing most major parties, including the main opposition
party; senior representatives of the military, police and
immigration service; two Timorese civil society delegates; and
President Ramos-Horta's national security advisor. Vice Prime
Minister Jose-Luis Guterres led the Timorese delegation.
Ambassadors to Timor from Portugal, Australia, New Zealand and
the U.S. attended as observers, as did the Indonesian charge
d'affaires and senior representatives from the UN mission in

7. In designing the workshop, the APCSS deliberately chose not
to simply analyze and edit Timor's draft NSP. Instead, the
center facilitated discussions by the Timorese in small groups,
using key "framing questions" and technology that enabled
real-time visual display and recording of the proceedings. The
process elicited in-depth consideration by the Timorese of their
country's national interests and goals, the threats/challenges
facing the realization of those objectives, and how best to
respond to those challenges. The delegates were further asked
to reflect on how Timor's international partners can best
support strengthening the country's national security and how
best to improve coordination among the security institutions and
the civilian leadership.

Workshop Results

8. The workshop resulted in an inventory of Timor's national
interests, challenges and possible policy responses, extending
beyond the security sector and indeed largely mirroring the
country's development agenda. It will be used by the government
to refashion the draft NSP for submission to its council of
ministers for approval. The policy will then be submitted to
the national parliament for review, either as a standalone
policy statement, or incorporated into a planned national
security law. Once legislative action on the NSP is completed,
the government has several other security sector related laws in
the hopper, including an internal security law; a bill to
improve the investigation of, and define the punishment for,
human rights abuses by the security forces; and revisions to
laws governing the police and military.

9. The Timorese participants clearly demonstrated their
commitment to the workshop, as not a single delegate missed a
single minute of the program. Indeed, most came early every
morning to caucus before the sessions began and a group

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deliberated until late in the evening one night. Despite
expectations of disagreement, the discussions remained
constructive throughout, enabling a remarkable unity to emerge.
Crediting the process employed by the APCSS with great success,
one senior Timorese delegate told the ambassador that although
he had spent twenty years working on national security concepts,
never before had he seen his colleagues tackle these issues with
such breadth and clarity. Another noted that it had proved
impossible to bring together key stakeholders in Dili to discuss
the government's draft NSP. By assembling them instead in
Hawaii, including senior representatives from across the
political spectrum, the workshop contributed to developing broad
ownership of the NSP. IN the workshop's final session, several
delegates, applauded the generosity of the U.S. in hosting the
workshop, and urged that the group reassemble in Dili to
continue its work.

10. The conference was not without its shortcomings. Embassy
Dili, working with the President and Prime Minister, labored to
ensure the selection of the best possible group of Timorese to
participate in the workshop. Despite our efforts, a couple of
key stakeholders were not able to join, in one case due to a
serious illness contacted on the eve of the meeting. The
outcome of the workshop, while enjoying full and broad support
from the participants, suffers from a relative lack of
prioritization (this was noted, in a positive sign, by several
of the Timorese in the workshop's closing session). And, there
may have been an expectations mismatch among some participants,
with one observer expressing disappointment that reform of the
police and military had not been explicitly and more thoroughly

Next Steps

11. This latter observation points to possible next steps.
First, Embassy Dili, working together especially with Australia,
Portugal and the UN, whose representatives in Honolulu left as
enthusiastic supporters of the process, will continue to
facilitate the development of the NSP. To begin, we will
convene in Dili on September 25 a meeting of all the workshop
participants to encourage both the viability of this group, and
the completion and full ratification of the NSP. Next, our
focus must turn to exploring how best we can support the reform
and professionalization of the military and police.

12. Embassy Dili believes the APCSS can again play a vital
role. The NSP workshop reaffirmed to the Timorese that the U.S.
is a constructive and neutral partner in the field of security
sector reform, able to bring together key domestic stakeholders
and international partners to make progress on a highly
sensitive national issue. Both the foreign minister and
secretary of state for security have suggested future U.S.
organized workshops, with the latter suggesting either civilian
control of the security institutions or integrated crisis
management (which would feature the delineation of roles and
responsibilities among the police and military) as possible
future topics. Whether stated implicitly or explicitly, the
emphasis of any future facilitation by the U.S. should be the
transformation of these institutions into effective protectors
of the citizens of Timor-Leste, and contributors to regional
stability, firmly under civilian control.

13. We will be eager to explore with PACOM and APCSS how best
to focus their expertise, in concert with partners including
Australia, Portugal and the UN, to realize security sector
reform and the maintenance of peace and stability in
Timor-Leste. As part of a separate exercise initiated by the
Commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, we welcome the dispatch in
November 2008 to Timor of an assessment mission, possibly in
conjunction with the U.S. Coast Guard, to review Timor-Leste's
maritime security capabilities and requirements. We also would
welcome a similar assessment of Timor's ground forces being
considered by the Commander of U.S. Marine Forces in the
Pacific. Embassy Dili is also working with State/INL, the FBI
and DEA to explore new programs aimed at strengthening Timor's
police and justice sectors.

14. Embassy Dili wishes to extend sincere gratitude to U.S.
Pacific Commander Admiral Keating and his staff for responding
so quickly and constructively to Foreign Minister Da Costa's
request for assistance in developing Timor's national security

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policy. And we wish to especially thank Director E. P. Smith
and his team at the APCSS for hosting the Timor-Leste NSP
Development Workshop. Their rapid deployment of an innovative
facilitative mechanism will make a substantial and lasting
contribution both to national security policymaking in Timor,
and to our ability to be a constructive and influential partner
to Timor-Leste, a struggling and still-vulnerable democracy.

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