Parliament: More SAF troops to be sent to Iraq later this year to train their security forces

The SAF Counter-Terrorism Training Unit will be deployed to Iraq to partner the Australian Defence Force to train the Iraqi Security Forces in tactical-level weapons and combat tactics. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) will be sending more troops to Iraq later this year as part of international efforts to deal with terrorism at its source.

At home, the SAF and the Singapore Police Force will conduct routine joint training sessions to arm soldiers with the skills to carry out homeland security operations.

The first routine training between the two security forces, this will happen from early this year and also aims to enhance interoperability between the two forces.

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen announced these moves to deal with the terror threat on Friday (March 2) in a speech during the debate on his ministry's spending plans.

He said "considerable progress" has been made since SAF troops were deployed in Iraq in 2014, adding that the coalition effort led by the United States has taken Iraq back from the control of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Said Dr Ng: "Singapore will maintain our commitment to counter-terrorism globally, for our own interests."

The SAF Counter-Terrorism Training Unit will be deployed to Iraq to partner the Australian Defence Force to train the Iraqi Security Forces in tactical-level weapons and combat tactics.

The unit will also partner the British Armed Forces to train the Iraqi forces to counter improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

This deployment was in response to the coalition's recent request for combat engineer trainers and trainers with tactical weapons and combat tactics expertise to support the evolving operational needs of the coalition forces in Iraq, said a Mindef statement.

The team, led by an SAF officer, will comprise combat engineer trainers specialising in counter-IED tactics, weapons and combat tactics trainers, and a medical team of a medical officer and a medic.

Since 2014, the SAF has been contributing assets and deploying SAF liaison officers, intelligence fusion officers, imagery analysts, KC-135R tanker aircraft and SAF medical teams in support of the efforts against the ISIS.

Workers' Party MP Pritam Singh (Aljunied GRC) asked the Defence Minister about Mindef's assessment of the threat to Singapore's troops in Iraq, how long the deployment would last, and the prospects of mission creep, or changes in mission objectives that lead to unplanned long-term commitment.

Dr Ng replied: "We must never prepare to send people if you think there are no risks because there are always risks. You only send them when the risks are necessary to protect Singaporeans and Singapore."

He added that for Singapore to not contribute when there has been "most significant gains" in taking back Iraq "is not within our character".

"There is no mission creep. The central mission is so that ground zero for the export of terrorists must be eliminated as we did in Afghanistan... For Iraq, for ISIS, we had a much more vested interest because there were foreign fighters from Malaysia, from Indonesia, from Singapore who were there," he said.

On the home front, the SAF provides training for homeland security operations mainly through the Island Defence Training Institute inaugurated in July last year, and through joint training with the police.

In the joint SAF-police training sessions, SAF troopers and police officers will practise operating together through a series of training scenarios.

Starting this year, all recruits will be trained to contribute in their communities to voluntarily respond to a crisis or security incident even when they are not on duty.

As for the Island Defence Training Institute, it has trained instructors to teach counter-terrorism skills in the Basic Military Training curriculum.

Since this year, the institute has also adopted simulation technology for greater training efficiency and realism.

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.