SAF personnel recognised for contributions to counter-terrorism efforts, transporting of Afghan evacuees
SINGAPORE: Eighty-two Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) personnel were recognised on Thursday (Apr 7) for their part in supporting the SAF’s counter-terrorism operations in the Middle East, as well as in the evacuation of Afghanistan refugees last year.
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen presented the Overseas Service Medal to the 82 at a ceremony held at the Ministry of Defence on Thursday morning.
Speaking at the ceremony, Dr Ng noted that the SAF's deployment in supporting counter-terrorism efforts in the Middle East was one of its longest overseas efforts. The deployment began in 2007 when Singapore joined the International Security Assistance Force - a multinational military mission in Afghanistan led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Dr Ng cautioned that the fight against terrorism was not over.
"Indeed, even as America and other partners of the coalition draw down, the threat to this region increases. Remaining terrorist networks may increase their activity," he said.
"Additionally, operatives and sympathisers from this region that went to the Middle East and have now returned would have gained training, expertise and connections. We must be vigilant therefore to watch for increased threats in our region, including Singapore."
Dr Ng noted that according to a 2021 report issued by the Internal Security Department, the primary terror threat to Singapore comes from self-radicalised individuals influenced by extremist materials online.
He pointed to this as the reason for the SAF launching its Counter-Terrorism Information Facility last year, allowing like-minded countries to share, monitor and analyse intelligence.
"At home, the SAF must continue to hone its ability to respond to such attacks such as the recent exercise held at the Star Vista to simulate a hostage situation in an urban setting," he added.
Dr Ng also applauded the operational readiness of those involved in the evacuation of Afghan refugees from Qatar to Germany, following the withdrawal of the United States military from Afghanistan in August last year.
"Within 48 hours of the US accepting the SAF’s assistance, our Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) and 76 SAF personnel, made their way to Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar," he said.
The SAF transported more than 2,000 evacuees over 15 days, an operation that drew personal thanks from others outside Singapore, including US Secretary of State Lloyd Austin, said Dr Ng.