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Armed Forces of Timor-Leste (F-FDTL)

The Ministry of Defence and Security is the central body of the Government, responsible for the design, execution, coordination and evaluation of the policy defined and approved by the Council of Ministers, for the areas of national defence, military cooperation, public security, criminal investigation and immigration. The Ministry of Defence and Security is assisted by the Secretary of State for Defence and the Secretary of State for Security. The Minister of Defence also supervises the Institute for National Defence.

It is incumbent upon the Minister for Defence and Security to: propose the policy and prepare the necessary regulation drafts for the areas under its responsibility; celebrate, in coordination with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, international agreements on defence and military cooperation; administrate and oversee the Armed Forces of Timor-Leste; promote the adequacy of military means; oversee maritime and aerial navigation aimed at military purposes; exercise supervision over Timor-Leste’s police forces; promote the adequacy of police means; watch over the safety of State’s real estate; and supervise and control the exercise of private security’s activities.

The Minister for Defence and Security shall promote the development of strategies for prevention, mediation and resolution of community conflicts; be responsible for the migration services; supervise maritime and aerial navigation with civilian purposes; ensure the safety of people and property in case of fire, floods, landslides, earthquakes and all situations that endanger them; develop, in coordination with other competent entities, civic education programs to address natural or other disasters caused by human action, cementing social solidarity and establish mechanisms for collaboration and coordination with other Government bodies responsible for related areas.

The General Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces (CEMGFA) is responsible for analyzing the missions and the military situation relative to the forces planning procedures of the military component of national defence. The CEMGFA is responsible through the Minister of National Defence to the Government for implementing the operational strategy, which the Minister’s task is to draft and execute national defence policy, and the same is also responsible for planning and steering military strategy, particularly in relation to the development of the force. The CEMGFA exercises the operational command of the armed forces, and therefore commands the land, air and sea components of the same. Thus, each component will be responsible for the readiness of its forces, and their preparation and training. All operational units will be dependent on the components operational command.

The Joint Coordinating Staff is headed by the Chief of the Joint Coordinating Staff and Deputy Chiefs of the Joint Coordinating Staff, and also by those heading the following divisions: Staff (J1), Military Intelligence (J2), Operations (J3), Logistics (J4), Training, Education and Doctrine (J5), Communications (J6) and Finances (J7). The Chief of the Joint Coordinating Staff has a small cabinet to assist with coordination, command and administration.

The Falintil – Forcas de Defesa de Timor-Leste [F-FDTL (Timor-Leste Defense Force)] is a small and very limited force, comprising a minor land force and a nascent naval component (there is no air element). The F-FDTL’s primary missions are to defend Timor-Leste against external threats, maintain internal security, and safeguard the country’s maritime resources from illegal exploitation. The Timor-Leste government has also tasked the F-FDTL with so-called ‘new missions’, to include crisis management and support to maintain peace, humanitarian assistance, and intergovernmental co-operation. Between 2006 and 2012, two long-standing international missions - the Australian-led International Stabilization Force (ISF) and the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste undertook these roles. However, in 2012 these missions concluded at the request of the Timor-Leste government.

A long-term strategic plan called ‘Force 2020’ was first circulated publicly by the Timor-Leste government in 2007. It is not clear if it remains under review by government, but certain elements appear to have been embraced, at least informally. The document called for a defense force larger than the initial target size of the F-FDTL. It envisioned a regular force of 3,000 personnel and the creation of conscription to meet that target.

In total, it proposed the creation of:

  • Two “land units” (45 percent of the total force) including an armored cavalry unit and artillery;
  • A naval unit (35 percent) including a marine corps;
  • A logistics and service unit (15 percent); and
  • A headquarters and command element (5 percent).

In terms of equipment, ‘Force 2020’ called for a defense force deploying missile-equipped combat vessels, armored assault vehicles (specifically M113 armored personnel carriers), MILAN antitank missiles, heavy machine guns, night-vision equipment, and other small arms. Reserve forces would also be created. The largest land force formation would initially be company-sized, and would be transformed into guerrilla groupings in wartime. An air support component was not an immediate requirement, but the document anticipated eventually deploying attack helicopters to support the land force.

The plans were controversial from the outset within domestic political circles and abroad because of its more aggressive composition and its degree of support from the president and prime minister remain unknown. However, the F-FDTL has since moved forward with some elements of the plan, including the establishment of a marine corps and the procurement of a few additional naval vessels. It remains to be seen whether the government will finance expanding the force.

The government maintains that the F-FDTL and the police are capable forces, although it maintains as a top priority - the continued rebuilding of the defense force. To this end, the government is trying to slowly build up training and procure suitable equipment. Some elements of a proposed national strategy document called ‘Force 2020’ are being used to help guide this process, although the document has yet to be formally approved by the government.

As a result of the elections 2012, the former Commander of the Timorese armed forces (Falintil-Forças Armadas de Defesa de Timor-Leste (F-FDTL)), Taur Matan Ruak, who ran as an independent, was sworn in as the new President on 20 May, and the new Parliament was inaugurated on 30 July 2012.

F-FDTL made additional efforts in 2012 to strengthen institutional capacities, with support from bilateral partners and UNMIT. The Government proceeded to implement recommendations in the F-FDTL Force Development Plan 2011-2017, including the establishment of contract, procurement and financial management capacities within F-FDTL. UNMIT military liaison officers provided mentoring to F-FDTL liaison officers prior to their deployment to forward operating bases in Bobonaro and Covalima Districts and to additional bases established prior to the presidential election.

F-FDTL was deployed in 9 of the 13 districts during the 2012 election period to provide an additional sense of security. As at 20 September, F-FDTL officers remained at those bases to perform civil-military cooperation tasks. UNMIT military liaison officers also assisted in the preparation of two F-FDTL officers to be deployed as military observers to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan in October 2012, when the officer previously deployed returned to Timor-Leste.

In May 2008, Timor-Leste signed a military cooperation agreement with a consortium of seven other Portuguese-speaking countries, with Brazil and Portugal agreeing to assist with military training of F-FDTL personnel. The F-FDTL worked closely with the militaries of Australia, New Zealand, Portugal, Malaysia, and the United States while personnel from these countries were deployed to Timor-Leste as part of the ISF mission. As the lead country for the ISF mission, Australia was the dominant partner. Although the ISF mission has now concluded, a joint Australia-Timor-Leste security agreement was signed in September 2013 to formalize post- ISF bilateral security cooperation. A handful of personnel from the Australian Defense Force remain in country to help mentor and advise the F-FDTL. Additionally, Australia and the U.S. provide extensive military training through mobile training teams, naval ship visits, and U.S. Navy Seabee (Construction Battalion) teams.

Growing military-to-military engagement helped to professionalize Timor-Leste's armed forces and keep them from being a spoiler on peace and stability issues. Pacific Partnership 2016 arrived in Timor Leste 08 June 2016 for the sixth time in the past eleven years and the first mission stop for Hospital Ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19). While in Timor Leste, Pacific Partnership personnel will work side-by-side with civilian leadership from the Dili community and Timor Leste Defense Forces in a disaster relief symposium, civil engineering projects, cooperative health engagements (CHE), subject matter expert exchanges (SMEEs) and community relations projects.

The 2016 mission also focused on the involvement of women in disaster response efforts, applying the principles of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 -- which addresses the role women play in conflict management and resolution, in a disaster relief context. Personnel will present considerations for women and children in disasters during a disaster response symposium, and meet with the U.N. Women representative in Timor Leste to discuss the countries national action plan for UNSCR 1325.

US Navy units from Commander, Task Force 75, US Marines, and Forsa Defesa Timor-Leste (F-FDTL) service members kicked off the 4th annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Timor-Leste during a opening ceremony at Port Hera Naval Base, 01 August 2016. US Navy Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 4, explosive ordnance disposal technicians from Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 5, Riverine Sailors from Coastal Riverine Group 1, and US Marines from the Fleet Anti-terrorism Security Team Pacific, will work hand-in-hand with their F-FDTL counterparts throughout the weeklong exercise. The exercise covered a variety of training topics such as information gathering, small craft maintenance and repair, infantry tactics, and staff planning, with each subject covered culminating in the practical application of the skills learned.

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Page last modified: 29-09-2016 20:02:11 ZULU