Mr Dennis Tan Lip Fong asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs (a) whether he can provide an update on the situation in Afghanistan from a foreign policy perspective; and (b) how does the change in government impact the bilateral ties that Singapore has with Afghanistan especially given the past involvement of the SAF in Afghanistan.
Dr Vivian Balakrishnan: The situation in Afghanistan remains challenging and difficult, especially the humanitarian impact on civilians. The United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has said that Afghanistan is “on the verge of a dramatic humanitarian disaster”.
There have been active discussions on the situation in Afghanistan at the multilateral level, including on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. These discussions have included a focus on improving the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan.
Singapore will continue to monitor developments in Afghanistan closely. We hope that all parties, including the Taliban, will protect the safety of civilians and allow humanitarian assistance to reach the intended recipients. While the future of Afghanistan must be determined by the Afghan people, it is also in the international community’s interest to see an Afghanistan at peace with itself and the world. To this end, Singapore welcomes United Nations Security Council Resolution 2593 (2021) which called for Afghanistan to, inter alia, “not be used to threaten or attack any country or to shelter or train terrorists, or to plan or to finance terrorist acts, and reiterates the importance of combating terrorism in Afghanistan”.
Mr Dennis Tan had referred to Singapore’s past contributions as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan from 2007 to 2013. We did so because Afghanistan was a key battlefront in the global fight against terrorism. This posed a security threat to Singapore as the Jemaah Islamiyah group had direct links to Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. The counter-terrorism efforts of the coalition, including Singapore, have contributed to our security over the past 14 years. As terrorism remains a threat to Singapore, we certainly hope that Afghanistan will not revert to becoming a safe haven for any terrorist groups.
On the impact on bilateral ties, our engagement with Afghanistan has been limited to technical assistance through our Singapore Cooperation Programme (SCP). Prior to the collapse of the previous government, Afghanistan accounted for the highest number of SCP participants amongst countries in Central Asia, with 837 officials having attended our training courses. As and when the situation permits, we hope to continue this assistance through our SCP.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
4 October 2021