Singapore is deepening its role in the fight against the Islamic State with a new medical team in Iraq, its premier announced during a state visit to the United States on Tuesday.
Singapore is already an active contributor to the global fight against ISIS (See: “Advancing the US-Singapore Strategic Partnership”). It was the first Southeast Asian state to join the U.S.-led Global Coalition to Counter ISIL (ahead of Muslim-majority Malaysia) and has been involved in several ways including air-to-air refueling and image interpretation.
On Tuesday, during a joint press conference with U.S. President Barack Obama, Lee announced that the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) would be sending a medical support team to Iraq.
“[W]e are making a modest contribution to the efforts, and we are going to be sending a medical team to Iraq,” Lee said.
The move was also reflected in the written U.S.-Singapore joint statement issued by the two leaders and publicly released following the press conference. As I noted in an earlier piece, Lee is just the fifth Asian head of state to be treated to a state dinner in the Obama White House during his official trip to Washington.
In a media release, Singapore’s defense ministry (MINDEF) said that the SAF medical team would boost the coalition’s ability to provide medical services to members of the coalition forces as well as the local Iraqi population. It contextualized Singapore’s involvement in such operations by noting that it had participated in reconstruction and stabilization efforts in Afghanistan under Operation Blue Ridge previously as well.
No further specifics were publicly available about the medical team. MINDEF said that the SAF would first need to assess needs before determining its size and composition.
“The SAF will first send a needs assessment and survey team to ascertain specific needs, before determining the composition and size of the medical support team,” it said.
In a Facebook post issued following the announcement, Singapore’s Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen also noted that soldiers from the Army Deployment Force (ADF) would also join the medical team for force protection. The ADF, announced earlier this year, was described by Singapore’s defense ministry as a high readiness unit designed to react quickly to the transnational challenges at home including terrorism.
“Soldiers from the ADF will also join them for force protection,” Ng said.