Parliament: SAF will further deploy planners to support coalition against ISIS

Parliament: SAF will further deploy planners to support coalition against ISIS
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen

The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) have sent a needs assessment and survey team to the United States central command headquarters to support the multinational coalition efforts against Islamic State (ISIS) militants.

A liaison officer has also been attached there since last December to facilitate planning and coordination for the SAF, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen when he gave an update of Singapore's involvement in Parliament today.

Over the next few months, the SAF will further deploy planners to the Combined Joint Task Force Headquarters and the Combined Air Operations Centre. It will also be sending a pre-deployment site survey team to prepare for Singapore's deployment of the KC-135R tanker, Dr Ng told the House.

He added: "At this early stage of our involvement, it is premature to determine if there will be further requests for greater support from Singapore to the coalition."

He was replying to Member of Parliament Alex Yam Ziming who wanted to know how many Singapore troops are currently deployed to support the coalition against ISIS and the nature of their involvement.

Reiterating the need for Singapore to play its role in the coalition and fight against terror, Dr Ng highlighted how events in other countries in recent months have confirmed that regardless of geographical distances, the threat of extremists, if not addressed, could result in terrorist attacks on residents in home countries.

The minister had informed the House in November last year that the SAF would support the multinational coalition against the threat posed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

He said: "What radical elements like ISIS are perpetrating have nothing to do with Islam, which teaches love, compassion and amity. Unfortunately, their false extremist ideology of these groups have attracted fighters from foreign lands and radicalised individuals to carry out atrocious acts in their home countries against innocent civilians of all races and religions, including Muslims."

On the continuing menace from ISIS, the minister pointed out that an estimated 1,000 foreign fighters are joining ISIS each month.

He said: "While airstrikes have degraded ISIS' oil-refining capacity and resulted in a fall in its oil revenue, ISIS reportedly continues to fund its operations from ransom money and human trafficking. More countries have joined the coalition against ISIS because they recognise that unless the source of this radicalisation is disrupted, their citizens at home cannot be protected.

"During the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban, you will remember that bombs exploded in Bali and Jakarta. If this can happen in Indonesia, a Muslim-majority country, it can happen anywhere, and all countries and their citizens are at risk from extremist terrorists. Our neighbours understand this threat and this is why Malaysia has also increased its vigilance."

Dr Ng said more than 40 nations in the coalition are contributing military capabilities to operations against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. These countries include Morocco, Jordan and Qatar - nearby countries that face a higher risk of reprisals from ISIS. 

The combined efforts of many countries have had an impact in the fight against ISIS, he said.

"To date, a number of key ISIS leaders have been killed. Iraqi security forces and Kurdish forces have also regained about 700 square km of ISIS-captured territory and halted ISIS' attempts to seize new territory. ISIS is now largely in a defensive fight to hold on to its territory and to protect its lines of communication and resupply," said Dr Ng.

In Iraq, the key coalition gains are seen in positions around Baghdad, which have blocked ISIS' movement southwards, parts near Fallujah, as well as the Mosul Dam.

In December, Kurdish forces launched an offensive to retake Mount Sinjar, which is strategically located as it links Mosul, the main ISIS stronghold in Iraq, and ISIS territory in Syria. In Syria, Kurdish forces are now in control of the majority of Kobani, a strategic town, said the minister.

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