Understanding JI Resilience and Australia’s Counterterrorism Efforts in Indonesia
Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) remains one of Indonesia’s longest standing state security threats. It has survived major organizational transformations, state security crackdowns, and international military operations in its pursuit of an Islamic caliphate in Indonesia that could extend to incorporate Malaysia, Singapore, and the southern Philippines. Jemaah Islamiyah rose to prominence for its role in orchestrating the 2002 Bali Bombings, which prompted the United States and Australia to engage Jakarta with the shared goal of destroying the organization and its links to al-Qaeda. Security pressures from Indonesian security services and international forces led to the dismantling of much of Jemaah Islamiyah’s leadership by 2007, which pushed it into a state of hibernation, where members focused on consolidating numbers and religious outreach. The emergence of the Islamic State and its Southeast Asian affiliates in 2014 occupied much of the Indonesian security services’ resources, which gave space to Jemaah Islamiyah to regenerate its strength with renewed vigor. The 2017 discovery of a JI military training program in Syria re-alerted Indonesian counterterrorism authorities to the risk posed by the group, and successive waves of arrests and crackdowns ensued. Although the COVID-19 pandemic meant that many terrorist groups ceased offensive operations and maintained a low profile, Jemaah Islamiyah began to infiltrate Jakarta’s state apparatus, civil society, and academia to promote its political objectives. Jemaah Islamiyah’s long history in Indonesia has proven it to be adaptable, patient, and persistent in pursuit of its objectives. Although it is not currently engaged in military operations, JI’s long history in Indonesia has shown the group is adaptable, patient, and long-term in its thinking. Observers suspect that leaders in Jemaah Islamiyah are biding their time and seeking gaps in state authority that they can exploit to pursue their organizational goals.
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About the Author
Tom Connolly is a postgraduate student at the University of New South Wales and an analyst at the Australian Department of Defense. The views expressed in this Issues & Insights are his own, and not necessarily representative of the Australian Government.