SAF medical team to be deployed in Iraq in 2017

3-month tour of duty next year is part of Singapore's expanded contribution in fight against ISIS

Singapore will deploy a Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) medical support team in Iraq for about three months next year, as part of its expanded contribution to the multinational coalition fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terror group.

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, speaking in Parliament yesterday, said the composition of the team will be decided after a needs assessment exercise.

"The exact size, composition, and capabilities of the medical support team will be determined after our needs assessment and survey team assesses the situation," he said.

"The deployment is expected to take place in 2017, next year, for around three months," he added.

Dr Lim Wee Kiak (Sembawang GRC) had asked Dr Ng for an update on Singapore's deployment to support the multinational coalition against the militant terror group ISIS, in the light of recent terrorist incidents across the world, as well as the recent arrest of radicalised Singaporeans under the Internal Security Act.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong first announced that Singapore will ramp up its contribution in the fight against terror during a joint press conference with United States President Barack Obama, during an official visit to the US earlier this month.

Dr Ng said the medical support team will take care of soldiers as well as civilians injured in the battle against ISIS, and will be protected by soldiers from the new Army Deployment Force (ADF).

The ADF is a new rapid response unit - the size of a battalion - that was set up by the SAF last month. It will work with the Home Team should a terror incident occur in Singapore.

"Our deployment in Iraq will augment existing coalition medical resources," said Dr Ng. "Through this deployment, our personnel will also gain good operational experience."

Singapore has, since December 2014, contributed to the counter- terrorism coalition that has been battling ISIS , said Dr Ng.

The SAF Imagery Analysis Team has been deployed to the Combined Joint Task Force Headquarters in Kuwait since last September.

Singapore also sent 492 SAF servicemen to Afghanistan during a six-year deployment to the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force, which included medical support. It was the SAF's longest overseas deployment, and ended in June 2013.

Separately, Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs Desmond Lee, in response to questions from MPs, said Singapore remains on the radar of terrorists.

Also, security agencies are continuing to monitor the evolving nature of attacks that have taken place in recent years, as well as cooperating with counterparts in the region to deal with the threat, he added.

Besides working with various stakeholders to put in place security measures for crowded areas and events, Mr Lee said police are taking steps to prevent terror attacks such as the ones seen recently.

Last month, a cargo truck was used to kill 85 people in Nice.

"I will not be able to go into the operational details. But calibrated measures are taken to protect against attacks, including those which attempt to use a vehicle as a weapon," he said. "These measures are continually reviewed based on (the police's) risk assessment."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 16, 2016, with the headline 'SAF medical team to be deployed in Iraq in 2017'. Subscribe