- Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis watched Indonesian special forces show off their survival skills.
- Mattis is in Indonesia pushing for better military relations with the country.
- The US broke ties in the 1990s when a brutal Indonesian dictator used special forces to kill political rivals.
- The US is interested in Indonesia as a potential ally in pushing back against China’s expansion into the South China Sea.
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis saw a rare display on a trip to Indonesia where he sought to improve ties with the country’s historically vicious special forces.
As part of that trip, Mattis watched a demonstration by soldiers, during which they broke bricks over their heads, walked on hot coals, performed martial arts, rolled in broken glass, killed live snakes, and drank their blood.
As the troops prepared the snakes, which were king cobras, one reportedly got loose and postured as if preparing to bite Mattis, though it was wrangled back into the fold, the Japan Times reports.
Special forces in Indonesia demonstrates to Mattis their ability to eat snakes. pic.twitter.com/I24p5adzsG
— Paul D. Shinkman (@PDShinkman) January 24, 2018
Eating snakes is actually a common military ritual, with some US troops training in the practice to prepare them for jungle warfare.
But Mattis was in Indonesia to repair ties with the country’s military, that came under sanction when the country’s former dictator used the special forces as a criminal organisation to brutally enforce his policies.
Currently, Indonesia’s special forces are banned from training with US forces, but Mattis may look to soften that policy after the trip.
Many fear that Indonesia, the country with the largest Muslim population in the world, could become home to extremist groups like ISIS as the group looks to expand beyond Iraq and Syria.
Additionally, Indonesia has proved a key figure in pushing back on China’s expansion into the South China Sea. The US may look to fold them into a coalition of countries that resist the unilateral militarization of the important shipping lane.
Mattis said on his trip he thought the human rights violators of Indonesia’s past had moved on from the special forces, and stressed the need for the countries to work together.
“No single nation resolves security challenges alone in this world,” Mattis said, according to the Washington Post.
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