Tuesday 4 November 2014

Singapore to join coalition in global fight against ISIS

Singapore to send officers, equipment to anti-ISIS coalition
Move is part of country's ongoing efforts to fight terrorism: Ng Eng Hen
By Charissa Yong, The Straits Times, 4 Nov 2014

SINGAPORE will contribute military personnel and equipment to the multi-national coalition battling the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a move that makes it the first South-east Asian nation to join the international campaign against the militant group.

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, in announcing the contribution in Parliament yesterday, said it was part and parcel of Singapore's ongoing efforts to combat terrorism.

It was similar to what Singapore gave to fight the terrorist threat from Al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiah (JI) in the past 10 years.

The aid will comprise Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) liaison and planning officers being sent to the United States Central Command and the Combined Joint Task Force headquarters, a tanker aircraft for air-to-air refuelling, and an imagery analysis team.

All were previously deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But no SAF combat troops will be on the ground in Iraq and Syria. Instead, SAF soldiers will operate from surrounding countries with other coalition forces, he said.

In making the move, Singapore contributes directly to its own security, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean in a statement.

"The threat posed by ISIS affects all of us, in all countries. Singapore is not immune. Singapore needs to play its part and support international efforts to contain the threat posed," said Mr Teo, who is also Coordinating Minister for National Security and Home Affairs Minister.

His comments came in the wake of the latest wave of killings by ISIS fighters, who executed about 200 members of an Iraqi tribe that had taken up arms against them.

The two ministers urged Singaporeans of all races and religions to be united, to effectively combat the ISIS threat.

Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim also told Singaporeans not to interpret the move against ISIS as one against Islam, because the radical teachings of the terror group and its wanton waging of war are not Islamic.

In Parliament, Dr Ng warned that even terrorist groups based in countries far away can pose a direct security threat to Singapore.

For example, in late 2001, the Home Affairs Ministry disrupted an Al-Qaeda plot to mount suicide bombings in Singapore with the help of the JI terror network. Singapore joined other countries to deal with the sources of radicalisation in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Dr Ng.

As a result, both Al-Qaeda and JI are weaker today, he added.

But Dr Ng cautioned that the threat is long-term, and new groups like ISIS will emerge even as existing ones falter.

"When they do, we must not lose focus or heart in dealing with the threat from ISIS. We must continue with the approach that has served Singapore well and protected us thus far," he said in his reply to Mr Alex Yam (Chua Chu Kang GRC).

The deployment length should be reviewed annually, he added.

Ministers urge unity among communities in anti-ISIS fight
By Charissa Yong and Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 4 Nov 2014

SINGAPORE needs to play its part in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group because, in doing so, it contributes to its own security, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean yesterday.

His comments followed Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen's announcement in Parliament that Singapore will deploy military personnel and contribute equipment to the multi-national coalition forces fighting ISIS.

All Singaporeans are affected by the ISIS terror threat, said three ministers yesterday - including Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim - as they called for unity among communities here.

"The threat posed by ISIS affects all of us, in all countries. Singapore is not immune," said Mr Teo. This is why Singapore will send Singapore Armed Forces liaison and planning officers, a tanker aircraft for air-to- air refuelling, and an imagery analysis team, Dr Ng said yesterday.

At the same time, the Government is reaching out to explain the thinking behind the decision to contribute to the fight against ISIS. Yesterday, it distributed letters to grassroots leaders on the ISIS threat, so that they can better explain the situation to residents who ask about it. The letters outline the Government's stand on the terror group.

Singapore has also acted to strengthen its community bonds and counter extremist ideology to help prevent Singaporeans from becoming radicalised, said Mr Teo.

He praised community efforts to tackle the ISIS threat.

"It is heartening to see how all communities have worked with and supported one another in our efforts to tackle this challenge," he said in a statement.

He singled out the Malay-Muslim community for taking a firm position against the violent actions of ISIS.

Mr Teo, who is also the Coordinating Minister for National Security and Home Affairs Minister, also lauded the community for taking steps to counter ISIS' extremist ideology and to help those suffering from violence in the Middle East.

Since last Friday, the Religious Rehabilitation Group - which counsels those influenced by radical misinterpretations of Islam - has issued a pamphlet that aims to clear up confusion about ISIS' aim of creating an Islamic caliphate.

The 12-page pamphlet also advises the Muslim community on the best way to help victims of the Syrian conflict, and encourages those with questions about extremism to contact the group or the nearest mosque.

Meanwhile, Singapore's leaders stressed that the country's move is against ISIS, not Islam.

In Parliament, Dr Ng said: "Singaporeans at home must understand that the radical ideology and acts committed by a small misguided extremist group in the name of Islam do not represent the majority of believers, who condemn these extremists as going against the teachings of Islam."

Both ministers pointed out that Singapore's Muslim religious and community leaders have unequivocally denounced ISIS, saying its teachings and actions have nothing to do with Islam.

"Islam upholds peace, the preservation of human life and its sanctity, and it is thus forbidden in Islam to wage war wantonly on others," said Dr Yaacob.

He urged all communities to continue to work together, "so that our people are more informed, understand each other better, and are not easily swayed by inaccurate or provocative foreign or social media reporting".

He added: "This way, we will emerge stronger as Singaporeans, united in our common goal for peace, understanding and harmony."

Singapore to support effort against Islamic State
Republic will provide support from surrounding countries, but it will not deploy combat troops
By Xue Jianyue, TODAY, 4 Nov 2014

The Republic will join the United States-led multinational coalition against the Islamic State militant group and provide support while based in countries surrounding Syria and Iraq, but combat troops will not be deployed.

The support includes sending Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) liaison and planning officers to the US Central Command and the Combined Joint Task Force HQ, a KC-135R tanker aircraft for air-to-air refuelling, and an Imagery Analysis Team.

Announcing this decision in Parliament yesterday, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said contributing to the international effort to tackle the Islamic State threat at source — named Operation Inherent Resolve — is contributing directly to Singapore’s security.

Singapore had responded to the terrorist threat from Al Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) by strengthening defences at home and joining other countries to deal with forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. “As a result, both (Al Qaeda) and JI are weaker today,” Dr Ng said. “We must continue the approach that has served Singapore well and protected us thus far.”

The announcement comes after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said last month that Singapore was considering how it can be a helpful partner in the fight against the Islamic State. Speaking at the 10th Asia-Europe Meeting in Italy, Mr Lee had said Singapore views extremist groups such as the Islamic State as a threat, as radicalised individuals could return to launch attacks on home soil.

Yesterday, Dr Ng noted the Islamic State could potentially sustain its efforts for some time by using the rich oil resources in the territories it has occupied. It has also used the Internet and social media in a sophisticated way to attract jihadists from around the world and extend its links to other religious militant groups.

An estimated 10,000 to 20,000 foreigners have been reported to be in Iraq and Syria, and about 350 South-east Asians — some of whom are from Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia — are said to be among them.

“It is in Singapore’s interest to support the multinational efforts against ISIS. ISIS exports terrorism to our region, whether by sending foreign terrorists to carry out terrorist operations or radicalising regional elements who engage in violence in Iraq, Syria and subsequently their home countries,” Dr Ng said.

The assets that Singapore will contribute to the coalition against the Islamic State were previously deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan and have been effective and appreciated by international partners, he added.

Deployments in Iraq included more than 990 SAF personnel from 2003 to 2008 as part of a multinational reconstruction effort. In Afghanistan, more than 350 SAF personnel have been deployed since 2007 as part of the International Security Assistance Force peace support operations and reconstruction efforts led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Asked by Mr Alex Yam, Member of Parliament for Chua Chu Kang GRC, about the length of the deployment and the possibility of personnel engaging in combat, Dr Ng said the situation in Iraq and Syria was fluid and extremely dynamic. The length of deployment would be reviewed every year, taking into account the effectiveness of the joint efforts, he said, adding that the current scope of deployment would suffice for now.

While SAF servicemen deployed to the coalition’s operations will face risks, the Government will ensure that they are well-equipped and receive additional training in weapon handling and against improvised explosive devices and other hostile elements, he added.

On efforts to engage Singaporeans on this mission, Dr Ng said the Government had started doing so through closed-door discussions with small groups of Singaporeans, an approach it would continue.

The other 33 countries in the coalition include Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Jordan, Japan, South Korea, Britain, France and Canada. These countries have provided military support or humanitarian aid.

SAF deployments over the years
The Straits Times, 4 Nov 2014


The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) contributed over 1,000 personnel and equipment such as helicopters to the United Nations peacekeeping mission to restore peace and security in Timor-Leste between 1999 and 2003, as well as between 2008 and 2012.


More than 990 SAF personnel and equipment including refuelling tanker aircraft and transport aircraft supported the multi-national reconstruction efforts in Iraq between 2003 and 2008.


Over 350 SAF personnel have been deployed to Afghanistan to participate in the Nato-led peace support operations and reconstruction efforts there since 2007.


More than 700 sailors, soldiers and airmen have joined the multi-national counter-piracy effort in the Gulf of Aden since 2009.

A task group including a frigate and naval helicopter was deployed for the same mission in March this year.


The SAF has participated in several humanitarian assistance missions since 1970, including in Indonesia and Thailand in the wake of the Indian Ocean tsunami on Dec 26, 2004, as well as in New Zealand after the earthquake in February 2011.


Malaysians joining militant groups masquerading as aid workers
By Shannon Teoh Malaysian Correspondent In Kuala Lumpur, The Straits Times, 4 Nov 2014

MALAYSIANS seeking to join militant groups have taken to posing as humanitarian aid workers in a bid to travel undetected, according to the Malaysian government, which has found it difficult to root out Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) recruitment networks.

Deputy Home Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar told Parliament yesterday that it has become hard to discover the "true motives" of those intending to take up arms overseas, reports said.

"While we try our best to put a stop to Malaysians getting involved in terrorist and militant activities, it is hard to track and identify those who are going to join such groups because they disguise themselves as aid workers with humanitarian NGOs," he was reported as saying by The Star.

Some 167 Malaysians have been identified as having links to armed violence overseas since December 2001.

Thirty-seven people connected to ISIS, including five women and key recruiters, have been arrested since April, police say. Despite several people being charged in court with terrorism, the authorities say more could be at large.

Police counter-terrorism chief Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay did not want to comment on suspects posing as aid workers, so as not to jeopardise ongoing investigations, but told The Straits Times that many of the suspects have become adept at making sure they do not bear incriminating evidence of militancy.

"They have nothing on their bodies or luggage, and delete everything off their handphones," he said of some suspects caught just before boarding planes to leave the country.

Defence expert Dzirhan Mahadzir said potential militants pretending to be aid workers was a problem, but the investigations should be left to the destination countries.

"We don't really stop people from leaving the country," he told The Straits Times. "It could be that some police inquiries here have been inconclusive because of this tactic, but this information has to be reported back from destination countries."

Stepping up in fight against ISIS
Editorial, The Straits Times, 7 Nov 2014

Singapore's decision to commit military personnel and equipment to the multinational coalition against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is a difficult but necessary step towards shoring up the Republic's own security. It is difficult because of the risks to SAF servicemen, which they will have to be trained specifically to guard against. Also, Singapore's move no doubt might attract the wrath of the murderous terrorist group.

However, the decision to deploy military assets is a necessary one because inaction would make the country even more vulnerable to the terrorist scourge. In the final analysis, Singapore's security is tied inextricably to that of an international community threatened by the millenarian group's violent, expansionist and non-negotiable agenda. Not only is ISIS determined to set up a global caliphate, but it also has made serious advances on the ground. According to a report this month by the Soufan Group, a security consultancy, the nucleus of the caliphate extends from the north of Aleppo to the south of Baghdad and includes the cities of Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq. About six million people on either side of the Syria-Iraq border live under ISIS, whose mediaeval governance is marked by cruelty that even other terrorists abhor.

These are not insignificant stretches of fallen territory and captive populations. ISIS' capacity to draw in fighters from, and spread back into, distant regions, including South-east Asia, is underlined by the composition of the international coalition confronting it. The campaign brings together countries with differing political and strategic interests, but it is united by the need to meet a clear and present danger posed by a well-armed and motivated group of religious zealots seeking to impose their extremist writ on both Muslims and non-Muslims. Unmoved by international law, force is the only reality that they preach and the only deterrence that they understand. Force therefore has to be used to disperse ISIS and destroy its capacity to create international mayhem.

Unsentimental globalists by necessity, Singaporeans will recognise the nature of the ISIS threat. Fighting it is not a question of a small state getting involved in others' distant wars, but of stopping approaching aggression far from one's shores. The decision to despatch liaison and planning officers, a tanker aircraft and an imagery analysis team represents a calibrated contribution to the anti-ISIS campaign, in keeping with Singapore's limited but specialised capabilities. This effort deserves the support of citizens. Muslim Singaporeans, in particular, would appreciate the need to combat a wayward group whose goals and strategy could create a civilisational gulf between religions.

SAF team supporting anti-ISIS fight will have 50-60 personnel
By Danson Cheong, The Straits Times, 2 Dec 2014

THE Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) will be sending about 50 to 60 personnel to support the multinational coalition combating the terrorist threat from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen yesterday.

"Our planning officers and liaison officers have gone to (the United States) Central Command, to be able to get a sense of what the mission requirements are," Dr Ng told the media on the sidelines of the launch of the SAF's airborne training facility.

When asked if a date for deployment had been set, Dr Ng said the SAF was going to time its involvement with coalition efforts - and no specific date was available yet.

"As you know with the situation (over there), the weather makes a difference, even certain activities calm down when the weather turns," he said.

"We are going to synchronise with when our help is most needed," he added.

Many areas of Syria and Iraq are likely to see temperatures plunge below zero deg C in the mountains during winter.

Singapore is joining the United States-led coalition of more than 30 countries to fight the militant ISIS, which has in recent months conducted violent campaigns in Iraq and Syria.

Dr Ng had said in Parliament last month that Singapore's contribution will include tanker aircraft for air-to-air refuelling, and an imagery analysis team, which will operate from surrounding countries with other coalition forces.

All were previously deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

No combat troops will be deployed.

Yesterday, Dr Ng said Singapore's involvement has been much appreciated.

"They know that as we did in Afghanistan, we contributed very positively... so our coalition partners have welcomed our involvement," he said.

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