CIA activities in Indonesia

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Since the late 1950s, the CIA had been interested in attempts to thwart Communist political influence in Indonesia. In 1958 elements of the Indonesian military rebelled against the rule of President Sukarno, who was allied with the PKI.

During the mid-1960s, the U. S. Government sought to frustrate the PKI's ambitions and influence, as reflected in the CIA's 1965 goals and objectives, and its contemporary Intelligence analyses of the political situation. Agents of the USG, including its embassy and CIA, have posited no direct involvement in the 1965 Indonesian purge of Communists, which is challenged by allegations of some assistance.

Covert action taken 1958[edit]

Military rebellion[edit]

The Indonesian government of Sukarno was faced with a major threat to its legitimacy beginning in 1956, when several regional commanders began to demand autonomy from Jakarta. After mediation failed, Sukarno took action to remove the dissident commanders. In February 1958, dissident military commanders in Central Sumatera (Colonel Ahmad Hussein) and North Sulawesi (Colonel Ventje Sumual) declared the Revolutionary Government of the Republic of Indonesia-Permesta Movement aimed at overthrowing the Sukarno regime. They were joined by many civilian politicians from the Masyumi Party, such as Sjafruddin Prawiranegara, who were opposed to the growing influence of the communist party, the Partai Komunis Indonesia or PKI.[1]

Covert activities[edit]

On Feb. 9, 1958, rebel Colonel Maluddin Simbolon issued an ultimatum in the name of a provincial government, the Dewan Banteng or Central Sumatran Revolutionary Council, calling for the formation of a new central government. On Feb. 15 Dewan Banteng became part of a wider Pemerintah Revolusioner Republik Indonesia (PRRI or "Revolutionary Government of the Republic of Indonesia") that included rebels led by other dissident colonels in East and South Sumatra and in North Sulawesi.[citation needed]

Sukarno aggressively opposed the rebels; he called upon his loyal army commander, General Abdul Haris Nasution, to destroy the rebel forces. By Feb. 21 forces loyal to Sukarno had been airlifted to Sumatra and began the attack. The rebel headquarters was in the southern coastal city of Padang. Rebel strongholds stretched all the way to Medan, near the northern end of the island and not far from Malaysia.[citation needed]

In April and May 1958 CIA proprietary Civil Air Transport (CAT) operated B-26 aircraft from Manado, North Sulawesi to support Permesta rebels. On May 18, 1958 a B-26 was shot down during a bombing and strafing mission on government-held Ambon, and its CAT American pilot Allen Pope was captured. The CIA aborted the mission.[citation needed]

Military loyal to the central government launched airborne and seaborne invasions of the rebel strongholds Padang and Manado. By the end of 1958, the rebels were militarily defeated. The last remaining rebel guerilla bands surrendered by August 1961.[1]

USG stance in 1965[edit]

Unanticipated event[edit]

An action proposal was approved in March, with an intermediate intelligence memorandum in July, and a SNIE (Special National Intelligence Estimate), on the situation regarding Indonesia and Malaysia, in September. American officials were so unprepared for the crisis that at first they misidentified the anti-communist leader, General Suharto.[2]

Anti-communist purge[edit]

Bradley Simpson, Director of the Indonesia/East Timor Documentation Project at the National Security Archive claims that "the United States was directly involved to the extent that they provided the Indonesian Armed Forces with assistance that they introduced to help facilitate the mass killings.[3][4] However, H.W. Brands wrote that the Johnson administration expressly refused to supply weapons for the mass killing of Indonesian communists.[5] There is no evidence that the United States significantly increased the scale of the killings.[6]

Secrets as of 1998[edit]

DCI George Tenet, in declining the declassification of nine operations, said it would constitute a secret history of American power as used against foreign governments by three Presidents. Such CIA operations regarding Indonesia included political propaganda and bombing missions by aircraft during the 1950s.[7]


  1. ^ a b Roadnight, Andrew (2002). United States Policy towards Indonesia in the Truman and Eisenhower Years. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-79315-3. 
  2. ^ H. W. Brands, "The Limits of Manipulation: How the United States Didn’t Topple Sukarno," Journal of American History, December 1989, p801.
  3. ^ Historian Claims West Backed Post-Coup Mass Killings in '65. The Jakarta Globe. Retrieved on 25 December 2010, confirmed 21 January 2013.
  4. ^ Cf., Bradley R. Simpson, Economists with Guns: Authoritarian Development of U.S.-Indonesian Relations, 1960-1968 (Stanford University 2010), Chap. 7 "The September 30th Movement and the destruction of the PKI" at 171-206, massacres at 184-192.
  5. ^ H. W. Brands, "The Limits of Manipulation: How the United States Didn’t Topple Sukarno," Journal of American History, December 1989, p. 803.
  6. ^ Cribb, Robert, 2002, "Unresolved Problems in the Indonesian Killings of 1965–1966" Asian Survey, 42 (4), p. 550–563.
  7. ^ Weiner, Tim (July 15, 1998), "C.I.A., Breaking Promises, Puts Off Release of Cold War Files", New York Times