Indonesian soldiers in front of Borobudur
, March 1947
Before the formation of the Indonesian Republic, the military authority in the Dutch East Indies was held by the Royal Dutch East Indies Army (KNIL) and naval forces of the Royal Netherlands Navy (KM). Although both the KNIL and KM were not directly responsible for the formation of the future Indonesian armed forces, and mainly took the role of foe during Indonesian National Revolution in 1945 to 1949, the KNIL had also provided military training and infrastructure for some of the future TNI officers and other ranks. There were military training centres, military schools and academies in the Dutch East Indies. Next to Dutch volunteers and European mercenaries, the KNIL also recruited indigenous, especially Ambonese, Kai Islanders, Timorese, and Minahasan people. In 1940 with the Netherlands under German occupation and the Japanese pressing for access to Dutch East Indies oil supplies, the Dutch had opened up the KNIL to large intakes of previously excluded Javanese. Some of the indigenous soldiers that had enjoyed Dutch KNIL military academy education would later become important TNI officers, like for example: Suharto and Nasution.
Indonesian nationalism and militarism started to gain momentum and support in World War II during the Japanese occupation of Indonesia. To gain support from the Indonesian people in their war against the Western Allied force, Japan started to encourage and back Indonesian nationalistic movements by providing Indonesian youth with military training and weapons. On 3 October 1943, the Japanese military formed the Indonesian volunteer army called PETA (Pembela Tanah Air – Defenders of the Homeland). The Japanese intended PETA to assist their forces oppose a possible invasion by the Allies. The Japanese military training for Indonesian youth originally was meant to rally the local's support for the Japanese Empire, but later it became the significant resource for the Republic of Indonesia during the Indonesian National Revolution in 1945 to 1949. Many of these men who served in PETA, both officers and NCOs alike like Sudirman, formed majority of the personnel that would compose the future armed forces.
At first, Indonesian Armed Forces started out as the BKR (Badan Keamanan Rakyat – People's Security Agency), which was formed in the 3rd PPKI meeting, on 29 August 1945; this was an organisation of militias in a united nationwide force to ensure the security remained intact across the newly declared independent Indonesia; it was created more as a civil defence force than an armed forces. The decision to create a "security agency" and not an army, was taken to lessen the probability of the allied forces viewing it as an armed revolution and invading in full force. During their capitulation, one of the terms of surrender to Japan was to return the Asian domains they had conquered to the previous nation of the Allies, certainly not to liberate them independently.
When confrontations became sharp and hostile between Indonesia and the Allied forces, on 5 October 1945 the TKR (Tentara Keamanan Rakyat – People's Security Armed Forces) was formed on the basis of existing BKR units; this was a move taken to formalise, unite, and organise the splintered pockets of independent troopers (laskar) across Indonesia, ensuing a more professional military approach, to contend with the Netherlands and the Allied force invaders.
The Indonesian armed forces have seen significant action since their establishment in 1945. Their first conflict was the 1945–1949 Indonesian National Revolution, in which the 1945 Battle of Surabaya was especially important.
In January 1946, TKR renamed onto Tentara Keselamatan Rakyat (People's Safety Military Forces), then succeeded by TRI (Tentara Republik Indonesia – Republic of Indonesia Military Forces), in a further step to professionalise the armed forces and increase its ability to engage systematically.
Two men with rope around their necks are handcuffed by TNI officers in September 1948 in Madiun
In June 1947, the TRI, per a government decision, was renamed the TNI (Tentara Nasional Indonesia - Indonesian National Armed Forces) which is a merger between the TRI and the independent paramilitary organizations (laskar) across Indonesia, becoming by 1950 the APRIS or Military Forces of the Republic of the United States of Indonesia (Angkatan Perang Republik Indonesia Serikat), by mid year the APRI or National Military Forces of the Republic of Indonesia (Angkatan Perang Republik Indonesia), absolving also native personnel from within both the former KNIL and KM within the expanded republic.
From the 1950s to 1960s the Republic of Indonesia struggled to maintain its unity against local insurgencies and separatist movements in some of its provinces. From 1948 to 1962, the TNI was involved in local warfare in West Java, Aceh, and South Sulawesi against Darul Islam/Tentara Islam Indonesia (DI/TII), a militant movement aimed at establishing an Islamic state in Indonesia. The TNI also helped bring the rebellion of Republic of South Maluku to a close in 1963. Meanwhile, the PRRI/Permesta rebellion holds an essential place in Indonesian military history because it was led by army officers in Sumatra and Sulawesi between 1955 and 1961.
From 1961 to 1963, the TNI was involved in the military campaign to incorporate Western New Guinea into Indonesia, which pitted the TNI against Netherlands New Guinea. From 1962 to 1965 TNI fought in the Indonesia-Malaysia Confrontation. The Indonesian killings of 1965–1966 directly involved the armed forces under Lt. General Suharto fighting against the Communist Party of Indonesia.
Indonesia developed a good relationship with the Soviet Union in the period of 1961 and 1965. The Soviets sold 17 ships to the Indonesian Navy, the largest of which was a Sverdlov class cruiser. The size was 16,640 tons, very big compared to the current Indonesian Sigma class corvette at only 1,600 tons. Indonesia procured 12 Whiskey class submarines plus 2 supporting ships. Indonesia had more than a hundred military aircraft, 20 supersonic MiG-21s, 10 supersonic Mig-19, 49 Mig-17 and 30 MiG-15. They also supplied Indonesia with 26 Tupolev Tu-16 strategic bombers, though it is not clear what the serviceability rate was.
On 21 June 1962, the name "Tentara Nasional Indonesia" (TNI) was changed to "Angkatan Bersenjata Republik Indonesia" (Republic of Indonesia Armed Forces/ABRI). The POLRI (Indonesian National Police) was integrated under the Armed Forces and changed its name to "Angkatan Kepolisian" (Police Forces), and its commander maintained the concurrent status of Minister of Defence and Security, reporting to the President, who is commander in chief.
Under the New Order
During the New Order-era, the Indonesian military enjoyed certain privileges and played a significant role in Indonesian politics. The military involvement in Indonesian politics was formulated in the Dwifungsi (Dual function) doctrine of the Indonesian National Armed Forces.
On 1 July 1969, the Police Force's name was reverted to "POLRI".
In 1975, Indonesia invaded East Timor, followed a year afterward by the Insurgency in Aceh, flaring on-and-off from 1976 to 2005. From the 1970s to 1990s the Indonesian military worked hard to suppress these armed insurgency and separatist movements in the provinces of Aceh and East Timor. In 1991 the Santa Cruz Massacre occurred in East Timor, tarnishing the image of the Indonesian military internationally. This incident led the United States to sever its IMET funding, which supported training for the Indonesian military.
Also in 1992, each service branch began to reform their women's units, which were formed in the 1960s. These all-female Corps are the Women's Army Corps, the Women's Naval Service, the Air Force Women's Service Corps, and the Police Women's Service Corps. These were intended to "set to work at places and in functions conform[ing] to their feminine disposition." More specifically, women were assigned to administrative work, teaching English and working to improve health and social conditions of armed forces members and their families. The women police were said to "play an important role in solving problems [of] drug addicts and juvenile delinquents."
After the Cold War ended the Indonesian Armed Forces began to take part in United Nations peacekeeping missions. These were usually known as Garuda Contingent. The first was to the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia, quickly followed by a deployment as part of the United Nations Protection Force in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Indonesian troops were deployed to both the first and the second UN intervention in Somalia.
After the fall of Suharto in 1998, the democratic and civil movement grew against the acute military role and involvements in Indonesian politics. As the result, the post-Suharto Indonesian military has undergone certain reformations, such as the revocation of Dwifungsi doctrine and the terminations of military controlled business. The reformation also involved the law enforcement in common civil society, which questioned the position of Indonesian police under the military corps umbrella. These reforms led to the separation of the police force from the military. In 1990, the Indonesian National Police officially regained its independence and now is a separate entity from the armed forces proper. The official name of the Indonesian military also changed from "Angkatan Bersenjata Republik Indonesia" (ABRI) back to "Tentara Nasional Indonesia" (TNI).
Indonesian military continue its involvement and contribution in United Nations peacekeeping missions. After 1999, Indonesian troops went to Africa as part of the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The TNI has also served with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, UNAMID, UNSMIS, MINUSTAH, UNISFA, UNMISS, UNMIL.
Following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, the United States government suspended a spare parts embargo which had been in place for non-lethal equipment and military vehicles, to support the humanitarian effort in the tsunami-devastated regions of Aceh and Nias. Since then, the Air Force has signed deals to purchase more C-130 transport aircraft and upgrade the current C-130s in the inventory. On 22 November 2005, the US announced that military ties with Indonesia would be restored in full. The decision had ended the six-year US ban on arms sales.
In 2009, all former Indonesian military businesses were to be surrendered to a specialist body. The Indonesian Military Business Management Body (BPBTNI) was established in effect of a stipulation in Law No. 34/2004 on the Indonesian Military (TNI) which was to take over ownership and operation of all businesses owned or run by the TNI by 2009. Unlike the former National Banking Restructuring Agency (BPPN) which burdened the Indonesian state with losses, the BPBTNI would bear all losses alone.
From 2010 onwards, military spending in Indonesia was aligned to the Minimum Essential Force (MEF) strategic plan 2010 – 2014 requirements. Under MEF 2010 – 2014 funds of up to Rp150 trillion ($16.41 billion) to spend over five years to procure major weapons systems, Rp50 trillion $5.47 billion) will be used to accelerate achieving the Minimum Essential Force, Rp55 trillion ($6.02 billion) for procurement and Rp45 trillion ($4.92 billion) for maintenance and repair. Subsequent funding would be made available to fund the strategic plans of MEF 2015 - 2019 and MEF 2020 - 2024 to achieve the strategic goal of Minimum Essential Force.