No specific terrorist threat to S'pore arising from Afghanistan situation: ISD

Transnational terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda and ISIS could exploit the civil conflict and security vacuum in Afghanistan to regain a foothold.
Transnational terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda and ISIS could exploit the civil conflict and security vacuum in Afghanistan to regain a foothold.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SINGAPORE - The Internal Security Department (ISD) said there is currently no information of a specific terrorist threat to Singapore arising from the situation in Afghanistan.

Nevertheless, it is watching the ongoing developments in Afghanistan closely and will calibrate its security posture to be commensurate with the prevailing threats.

ISD said there are concerns that transnational terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda and Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) could exploit the civil conflict and security vacuum in Afghanistan to regain a foothold.

"The suicide bombing near the Kabul airport on Aug 26, which killed over 180 people, claimed by ISIS-Khorasan province or ISIS-K, underscores just how dangerous and volatile the situation is.

"The Taliban takeover could also serve as a source of inspiration and propaganda boost for terrorist groups in their violent struggle to establish an Islamic rule," said ISD.

It added that radicalised individuals, including those in South-east Asia, may be inspired to conduct attacks, or to make their way to Afghanistan as a theatre of jihad.

"They will pose a serious threat upon their return to the region, with their newly acquired paramilitary skills and terrorist connections."

Professor Andrew Tan, who is with the Department of Security Studies at Sydney's Macquarie University, said the chaos from Afghanistan following the departure of the United States will reverberate around the world.

Just as it did following the departure of the then Soviet Union at the end of the Cold War, and which led to the terrorist attacks on Sept 11, he added.

"The Taliban takeover will galvanise Al-Qaeda and militants all over the world, including in South-east Asia.

"More seriously, the Taliban has now gained control of large quantities of small arms, mortars, night vision equipment, sniper rifles, ammunition and explosives, which could make their way to militants in the region," he noted.

Prof Tan said fortunately, Singapore as an island city-state is able to secure its borders much more effectively than large archipelagic states such as Indonesia.

"However, Singapore will have to pay careful attention to the domestic security situation in neighbouring Malaysia and Indonesia, particularly the trajectory of militant groups, as heightened security threats there will inevitably spill over," he added.

Associate Professor Kumar Ramakrishna, Head of S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies' International Centre for political violence and terrorism research said:

"In my view, it is early days yet. We need to watch to what extent the 2021 Taliban would be as doctrinaire as the 1996 to 2001 Taliban that harboured Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. It is unlikely that the 2021 Taliban is a monolithic entity."

He added that it is possible that there are relative moderates and harder core extremists tussling to shape Taliban national policy.

If the extremists win, then it is highly likely that the Taliban will once again provide a safe haven for Al-Qaeda and other transnational terror networks.

"The spectre of South-east Asian militants flocking to Afghanistan for training and networking with other militants, as in the 1980s and 1990s, would then re-emerge.

"And these Afghan-based South-east Asian militants may through social media energise their followers in South-east Asia to plan attacks in our region," he said.