Indonesia's president has appointed his brother-in-law as army chief, raising speculation about political succession.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is married to the older sister of Lt. Gen. Pramono Edhie Wibowo, who was sworn in Thursday and replaces a general who will retire soon.
Wibowo's previous position was chief of the army's strategic command.
He also led a team of the army's notoriously violent commando unit, Kopassus, that was deployed in the then-province of East Timor before its 1999 referendum on independence. In 2008, Wibowo was assigned to lead Kopassus, the same post held by his late father, Sarwo Edhie, who was pivotal in crushing the communist party in 1966.
Washington severed all ties with the Indonesian military over the crackdown in East Timor in which investigators say hundreds died. The U.S. lifted that overall ban in 2005 but kept its restrictions against Kopassus until a year ago under a law that banned U.S. training for foreign military units accused of human rights violations. The special forces had also been accused of major abuses through the 1990s in the provinces of Papua and Aceh.
U.S. officials cited progress Indonesia's military had made and noted that the decision required those reforms continue.
Asked about Wibowo's appointment, U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Friday the U.S. wanted to see its military cooperation with Indonesia continue to grow _ a reaction echoed by the Defense Department, which said it looked forward to working with Indonesia's military leadership.
Toner told a news conference in Washington he was not aware that allegations had been proven that Wibowo was implicated in human rights abuses.
"Human rights and accountability are important issues for the United States and will continue to be an important part of our engagement and activities with Indonesia," Defense Department spokeswoman Cmdr. Leslie Hull-Ryde said.
The appointment has raised speculation Yudhoyono would nominate Wibowo, 56, as a presidential candidate in 2014. The president himself is constitutionally barred from a third term and last month ruled out presidential campaigns by his wife as well as his sons.
Yudhoyono became Indonesia's first directly elected leader in 2004 largely on a campaign to root out entrenched corruption and nepotism following the 32-year dictatorship of Gen. Suharto. He was easily re-elected in 2009.
Ray Rangkuti, executive director of the Lingkar Madani watchdog group, said the appointment shows Yudhoyono consolidating power after marginalizing the influence of the current leader of his Democratic Party.
"The appointment ... contradicts his promise to stay away from politics which is marred by corruption, collusion, nepotism," Rangkuti said in an interview with MetroTVNews.com.
Wibowo was one of seven three-star generals at the army previously tipped to be candidates for the top post.
According to an American diplomatic cable dated September 2007, before Wibowo had been promoted to become Kopassus commander, the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta said his elevation to that position could be problematic because there were questions about Wibowo's role in the events in East Timor in 1999.
The cable, which assessed the implications of a series of military promotions for U.S. policy and U.S.-Indonesian bilateral defense engagement, was among those leaked to the Wikileaks organization and subsequently obtained by The Associated Press.
The cable said that troops under Wibowo's command were assigned to East Timor during critical months in 1999, but it was not clear whether he accompanied them or whether he remained part of the chain of command. He was not among those indicted by a U.N-backed Special Crimes Unit that investigated the abuses in East Timor, the cable said.
Associated Press writer Matthew Pennington in Washington contributed to this report.