ISIS losing ground, but S'pore must stay vigilant: Ng Eng Hen

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, with (from left) Chief of Defence Force Perry Lim and Senior Minister of State for Defence Maliki Osman, visiting the Singapore Armed Forces medical team at the coalition camp in Iraq on Tuesday.
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, with (from left) Chief of Defence Force Perry Lim and Senior Minister of State for Defence Maliki Osman, visiting the Singapore Armed Forces medical team at the coalition camp in Iraq on Tuesday.PHOTO: NG ENG HEN/FACEBOOK

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is losing territory faster than expected, but Singapore must remain vigilant as the threat of terrorism increases in Asean, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen.

Dr Ng was in Iraq on Tuesday for a visit to Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) troops deployed in the multinational coalition to counter ISIS.

He was briefed by coalition commanders from Australia and New Zealand on the fight against ISIS. They had two pieces of good news, Dr Ng said on Facebook yesterday.

One, ISIS is falling faster than anticipated and is now reduced to pockets of resistance in Iraq.

Two, the Iraqi army has raised its capabilities over time.

"We should all take heart in this progress, and that the battle against extremist terrorism is being won by countries who believe in law and order and the rights of their own citizens to choose their way of life," he said.

"At the same time, we must remain vigilant, as the threat of terrorism increases in Asean."

An SAF medical team has been in Iraq since June to provide medical support to coalition forces, who also train the Iraqi military to defend its own land against ISIS and other extremist elements.

After meeting the SAF troops, Dr Ng declared them to be "in high spirits". He was also briefed by the SAF medical team on its tasks and responsibilities, and saw a demonstration of the team's in-theatre medical capabilities in handling mass combat casualties.

With him were Senior Minister of State for Defence Maliki Osman and Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant-General Perry Lim.

Dr Ng told The Straits Times at the end of the four-hour visit that he made the trip to show support to the soldiers deployed in Iraq.

"As commanders and leaders, we do this frequently because when you put our own soldiers in potential harm's way, (we want) to show support and have first-hand knowledge of the terrain and circumstances in which the SAF troops are deployed," he said.

He also wanted "to underscore the message that what they are doing is important".

The Ministry of Defence stated that the coalition commanders said continued support from partners like Singapore was vital in addressing the terror threat at its source, and "expressed appreciation for the SAF medical team's contributions".

Yesterday, Dr Ng visited Jordan and called on King Abdullah II. They discussed security developments in the Middle East, how terrorist threats continue to evolve and how countries can work to proactively address these threats.

He also called on Prime Minister and Defence Minister Hani Fawzi Al-Mulki. Both sides noted the importance of global cooperation against terrorism, and shared perspectives on ways to counter it, including intelligence-sharing and deradicalisation programmes.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 28, 2017, with the headline 'ISIS losing ground, but S'pore must stay vigilant: Ng Eng Hen'. Print Edition | Subscribe