SAF to deploy more forces to Iraq later this year: Ng Eng Hen

Nicholas Yong
Assistant News Editor
Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen attending the counter terrorism exercise Northstar at Changi Airport Terminal 3 on 17 October, 2017. PHOTO: Yahoo News Singapore

Singapore will deploy more forces to Iraq later this year to aid coalition forces in their fight against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen in Parliament on Friday (2 March).

Ng told the House that US Defence Secretary James Mattis had written to ask the Republic to commit more resources for the next phase of consolidation after recent “hard-won victories”. “We will send SAF troops to help train Iraqi security personnel to counter IEDs (improvised explosive devices), as well as in tactical weapons and combat tactics,” said Ng, who was speaking during a debate on his ministry’s planned spending.

According to a Ministry of Defence (Mindef) statement, the Singapore Armed Forces Counter-Terrorism Training Unit will partner the Australian Defence Force and British Armed Forces to train Iraqi forces. SAF forces have supported the fight against ISIS since 2014, contributing assets and personnel such as medical teams and imagery analysts.

In response to Aljunied Member of Parliament Pritam Singh’s queries on the nature of the SAF team’s mission, its objectives and the duration of its deployment, Ng noted that SAF personnel had been deployed in Afghanistan against terror group al-Qaeda for a decade.

“In Afghanistan, we understood that if we did not deal with terrorism at its source, that’s where al-Qaeda influence was at its greatest, you are basically just responding to waves and waves of terrorists that are being radicalised, trained, exported from ground zero, as it were.”

Similarly, the SAF deployment in Iraq is about protecting a “much more vested interest” because of the presence of foreign fighters from Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. “The central mission is so that ground zero for the export of terrorists must be eliminated, as we did in Afghanistan,” noted Ng, adding that “significant progress” had been made.

As to the length of the mission, Ng said, “We understand what this mission is about. We have to keep terrorism at bay. We have to keep at it. This is a long battle…When will it end? When can we pull back? I don’t know.”

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