February 11, 2008

Trouble in Timor

Two daring attacks were made today by rebels in East Timor, heart of Australia and New Zealand's own prolonged COIN campaign.

The President of East Timor is now in an induced coma while the Prime Minister escaped unscathed.

Update: Australia has decided to send several additional platoons to the country in the wake of the attempted assassination while the President seems likely to recover. You can read several good Australian opinion articles on the conflict here, here, and here.

From The Australian:

Reprisals following the death of rebel army major Alfredo Reinado, who was shot while apparently leading the attack on Mr Ramos Horta, are expected. The anger among his followers in the central western districts of Aileu and Same and in the refugee camps of the capital, Dili, could erupt into bloodshed at any time. Reinado's 600 disgruntled defectors are still at large. Significantly, their grievances over perceived ethnic discrimination have yet to be addressed.....

Yesterday's events will test the foreign policy credentials of the new Labor government and the skills of Foreign Minister Stephen Smith. Australia has invested heavily in nation-building in East Timor, with 800 troops and a $73 million aid program. Kevin Rudd has done the right thing by promising extra troops and announcing a visit to Dili later this week to assess the situation for himself. But it will take more than words of support and a show of strength to resolve this crisis.