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    Fighting the dangers of Route 515

    By Lance Cpl. Ronald W. Stauffer
    Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Afghanistan

    FARAH PROVINCE, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan – The once deadly, improvised explosive device-laden path of southern Afghanistan's Route 515 is now safer for everyday vehicle traffic due to the efforts of 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment (Reinforced) and Combat Logistics Battalion 3.

    During Operation Gateway III, Dec. 28, 2008 – Jan. 25, the Marines and Sailors of 3/8 and CLB-3, the ground and logistics combat elements of Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Afghanistan, cleared any existing IED and insurgent threats on this important east-west route in Farah province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

    Prior to Gateway III, the last time Route 515 saw measurable traffic was July 2008, when 2nd Bn., 7th Marines, last operated on its dirt surface, experiencing several casualties. The absence of an alliance or Afghan national security forces presence left broad opportunities for insurgent forces to move at freewill, using it as a resupply route to fuel their insurgency.

    Now that the route is clear and combat outposts have been constructed along its 43-kilometer length to boost security, Afghan leaders are hopeful that the reopened route will increase Afghan commerce in the region by enhancing security and allowing freedom of movement for their citizens. The thoroughfare also provides quicker accessibility to and from several of the alliance's forward operating bases in the region.

    In the past several months, both alliance forces and Afghan locals were forced to use Route 1, a path that took them 25 kilometers out of their way, as an alternate means to travel to the southwestern village of Bakwa, despite the realization that Route 515 promoted faster movement.

    Lance Cpl. Matthew D. Ellis, an intelligence analyst with SPMAGTF-A, explained insurgents use "rat lines," which intersect Route 515, to transport supplies and weapons from the south. Rat lines are old caravan routes thought to date back to biblical times, stretching from Pakistan to Iran.

    "The 515 goes all the way to Iran, and that's why the insurgents have been using it to transport weapons and supplies," Ellis said. "They've had time to build up and have freedom of movement for the past six months since 2/7 stopped using the route. Route 515 was the insurgents' main supply route in this region. We've already taken control of Route 1 and now the 515; so they're not going to be moving a lot of supplies through either route any more."



    Date Taken: 01.25.2009
    Date Posted: 01.25.2009 04:04
    Story ID: 29225
    Location: AF

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