The U.S. military isn’t the only one “surging” to quell violence in one of its occupied cities. A few weeks ago the Australian military rushed extra troops to Dili in East Timor to clamp down on gangs and rebels in advance of the April 9 presidential election. Only they call it a “flex,” not a surge.
In addition to bringing in more troops, the joint Australian-New Zealand battlegroup here has stepped up its patrol schedule, meaning individual soldiers patrol at least daily, often with just three hours of sleep between missions. They keep awake with caffeine candies, cigarettes and Cokes bought off the locals. (Only 50 cents – but it’s Indonesian-bottled Coke, so it tastes weird.)
The extra effort is paying off, says Corporal Steven Clacy, a section leader from the 1st battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment. “It’s been quiet the last few weeks because we’ve been flexing.”
But who knows what will happen after the elections, when the battlegroup slows down to rest and reorient. That’s the downside of a surge or flex: it’s got to end sometime, and the bad guys know it. The trick is making some kind of lasting difference as a result of all that extra effort. The Aussies hope that a successful election will defuse political tensions in Timor and dry up the demand for hired thugs.