Singapore will deploy a medical team to Iraq for around three months next year as part of the city-state’s deepening contribution to the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS), the country’s defense minister confirmed yesterday.
Earlier this month, during his state visit to the United States, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had announced at a joint press conference with U.S. President Barack Obama that the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) would be sending a medical support team to Iraq (See: “Singapore to Deepen Role in Islamic State Fight”).
As I wrote following the visit, though the move is a further boost for the U.S.-Singapore strategic partnership, it would also be just the latest step that Singapore has taken in the fight against ISIS (See: “Strengthening US-Singapore Strategic Partnership: Opportunities and Challenges”). Singapore 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 in air-to-air refueling and image interpretation.
On Tuesday, Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen provided a bit more detail about what Singapore’s new contribution might look like. In response to a question in parliament, Ng said that though the exact size, composition, and capabilities of the medical support team will be determined after a needs assessment, the deployment would take place in 2017 for around three months.
“The deployment is expected to take place in 2017, next year, for around three months,” he said, according to The Straits Times.
Reiterating what he had said following Lee’s announcement, Ng said the support team would provide care for soldiers and injured civilians in the ongoing fight against ISIS, and that it would be protected by soldiers from the new Army Development Force (ADF), a new rapid response unit set up by the SAF.
Ng also added that should Singapore face a direct security threat, the country would fight to make a “real difference” instead of just making a “token contribution.” He did not provide further specifics.
Previously, the SAF’s longest deployment had been a six-year one to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, which ended in June 2013.