Rear Mirror: British Invasions and Retreats from Afghanistan

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Air Commodore (R) Khalid Iqbal TI(M)[1]


When British forces pull down the Union Jack {hopefully} for the last time in Afghanistan this year, it will be a hugely symbolic moment[i]. Next year may be the first since at least 1914 that British soldiers, sailors and air crews will not be engaged in fighting somewhere – the first time Britain is totally at peace with the rest of the world.   British involvement in Afghanistan has a long history. The first invasion began in 1839. All four wars have yielded the same conclusion: “It is easy to conquer but almost impossible to hold and fatal to leave.” No government— not even an Afghan one— has ever managed to maintain control over the whole place. Author.)


In 1747, Ahmad Shah Abdali founded the Kingdom of Afghanistan and extended it up to Kashmir, Punjab, Sindh and Baluchistan. After his death in 1773, the empire fragmented into independent city states and triggered rivalry between the British and Russians for the dominance of the country[ii]. Emergence of Afghanistan as a state in the last two centuries owed itself more to British imperial designs than any urge amongst the Afghans to forge national unity. British writers claimed that their country had contributed significantly to give national unity to Afghans by drawing a boundary all around and giving it a status of a buffer between Britain and Russia[iii]. External compression was applied by these two advancing empires to foster effective cohesion amongst the Afghan factions[iv]. Afghanistan was invaded by the British army four times – in 1839, 1878, 1919, and 2001[v]. First three occasions were solo-adventures, whereas in case of the ongoing invasion, the UK was a part of UN mandated International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The Anglo-Afghan conflict has had a chequered history with a treacherous account of advances and reversals.

After the fall of Napoleonic France, by the 1830s Russia had emerged as Britain’s principal imperial rival. Competition between the two states for enhancing power and increasing respective sphere of influence in the Central Asian  region resulted in a dynamic ‘Great Game’ of wars, intrigue, and espionage that continued into the first decades of the 20th century. India was the prize possession of the British Empire, a source of infinite flow of wealth and power. The Tsars had their eye on this colony. From the sea, India was impenetrable, because this approach was very well defended by the superior Royal Navy. Any worthwhile effort for invading India was poised to come from the North–– the land route. Russian expansion into Central Asia and increasing influence in Iran’s foreign policy threatened to open a land route through which such a strike could become possible[vi]. Russia, wanting to increase its presence in South and Central Asia, had formed an alliance with Persia which had territorial disputes with Afghanistan as Herat had been part of the Safavids before 1709. The British also anticipated a possible Russian invasion of India through Afghanistan as the Russians had expanded towards the British dominion of India.

At that time, Afghanistan was an insignificant, fragmented, impoverished and highly underdeveloped tribal society. Ironically, it held the key to the two giant nations’ ambitions in Asia. It was indeed an unenviable position for Afghanistan. The British were not interested in an outright invasion and an annexation of Afghanistan into their empire. Rather, it saw Afghanistan as a buffer zone between India and an ever-encroaching Russia. If the two armies were to meet in battle, the British thought it should happen as far away from India as could be operationally viable, feasible and possible.

The steady advance southwards of the Russian empire into central Asia and the equally relentless advance north-westwards of the British dominion in India in the first half of the 19th century forced Afghanistan into an uneasy position of a buffer state between these two giants. The possibility of a Russian invasion of India via Kabul and the Khyber Pass or via Herat, Kandahar, and the Bolan Pass, had always been seen as an operational viability by the British strategists. The attitude of the emir at Kabul was thus of pivotal importance[vii]. Therefore in a bid to win over the Amir, a British envoy, Alexander Burnes, was despatched to Kabul in 1837. The Amir was anxious to form an alliance with the British. But as quid pro quo he demanded assistance in the return of the former Afghan possession of Peshawar, seized by the Sikhs in 1834. It was a price the British would not pay because, forced to choose between the Afghans and the Sikhs, they preferred to stay with the powerful kingdom of the Punjab, under its able ruler, Ranjit Singh. A Russian envoy, Vitkevich, arrived in Kabul on 19 December 1837 while Burnes was still in Kabul[viii]. Reportedly when Governor-General George Eden (Lord Auckland) heard about the arrival of a supposed Russian envoy in Kabul and the possibility that Dost Mohammad might turn to Russia for support, his “politically insane” advisers exaggerated the threat. Now the British were convinced that the Amir was pro-Russian. British fears of a Russian invasion of India grew when negotiations between the Afghans and Russians broke down in 1838 which led to the Persian troops – along with their Russian allies – attack on the western Afghan city of Herat in an attempt to annex it[ix].

The governor-general of India, Lord Auckland, decided to work on regime change and replace Dost Muhammad with a more pliable ruler[x], a former ruler, Shah Shuja. A plan of action was hatched to reinstate Shah Shuja who had ruled Afghanistan from 1803 to 1809, and was deposed by Dost Muhammad[xi]. Terms of reference were agreed upon between Shah Shuja and the Indian government. Shah Shuja agreed that if restored to power, he would open Afghanistan’s trade routes to the British. Shuja also agreed to sit as the puppet ruler of an Anglo-friendly buffer zone. Hence it was time for the British to restore Shah Shuja to the Afghan throne. The Sikhs were persuaded to enter a Tripartite Treaty for this purpose and in December 1838 the British army of the Indus assembled at Feroze pur, Punjab, to escort Shah Shuja to Kabul[xii].

In pursuance to this objective, the Governor-General of India, Lord Auckland, issued a manifesto in October 1838, spelling out the raison d’être for British intervention in Afghanistan. Shah Shuja was recognized as the legitimate King and Dost Muhammad was declared a usurper. The official line was that British troops would be present in Afghanistan merely to support Shah Shuja’s army in retaking what was rightfully his. Once he was firmly installed in Kabul, British troops would leave the country[xiii].

First Anglo-Afghan War 1839-42

The First Anglo-Afghan War, commonly known as ‘Auckland’s Folly’[xiv] was fought between British India and Afghanistan from 1839 to 1842. It was one of the first major conflicts of the Great Game in Asia. It resulted in the deaths of 4,500 British-led Indian soldiers and 12,000 of their camp followers by the warring Afghan tribal fighters. Most of the British troops and casualties were Indians.

A British-Indian force attacks the Ghazni fort First Afghan War, 1839[xv]

The invasion began in December 1838, when an army of 39,000 men left the Punjab under the command of Sir John Keane, subsequently replaced by Sir Willoughby Cotton and then by William Elphinstone, entered Afghanistan. With them travelled William Hay Macnaghten, the former chief secretary of the Calcutta government, who had been selected as Britain’s chief representative to Kabul. By late March 1839, the British forces had reached the Afghan city of Quetta, crossed the Bolan Pass and begun their march to Kabul. They advanced through rough terrain, crossed deserts and 4,000 metre high mountain passes, but made good progress and finally set up camps at Kandahar on 25 April 1839. The harsh Afghan climate and rugged landscape was soon telling on the Anglo-Indian troops as they moved deeper into the country. Nevertheless, by 25 April, 1939 they had arrived at Kandahar, resistance having melted away, and Shah Shuja, flanked by his British allies, entered the traditional seat of his ruling dynasty to a joyous reception. Fall of Kandahar was swiftly followed by the over-running of the well-defended fortress of Ghazni.  On 22 July 1839, in a surprise attack, the British-led forces captured the fortress of Ghazni. British troops blew up one of the city gates and marched into the city in a majestic mood. In taking this fortress 200 of their men were killed and wounded, while the Afghans lost nearly 500 men. An unknown but a large number of Afghans soldiers sustained battle related injuries. During the battle, 1,600 Afghans were taken as war prisoners. Ghazni was a well supplied garrison; its capture eased the further advance of Anglo-Indian troops considerably.[xvi]

Soon After, the British achieved a decisive victory over Dost Mohammad’s troops, led by one of his sons. Dost Mohammad fled with his loyal followers across the passes to Bamyan, and ultimately to Bukhara. In August 1839, after almost thirty years, Shuja was again enthroned in Kabul. Shah Shuja and his British allies had achieved what appeared to be a remarkable victory. The invaders of Afghanistan were over-awed by an initially easy triumph. However, the scene had been set for a catastrophic defeat that would shatter British prestige and drive them out of Afghanistan for a generation.

From the outset, Shah Shuja’s government became unpopular. He appointed corrupt officials and surrounded himself with cronies, excluding traditional tribal leaders from the decision making circle and denying them their due protocol, standing and influence. They felt dejected; therefore they aligned their stakes with the termination of Shah Shuja’s rule rather than being supportive to sustain it. This was a critical blunder. For the loyalties of the Afghan population were towards their tribal kinsmen rather than to any central government[xvii]. Moreover, Shah Shuja had re-emerged from years of exile spent in the comparatively cosmopolitan and liberal atmosphere of British India; he brought with him a moral code that many Afghans thought was incompatible with local traditions, and hence distasteful. Presence of a foreign army, and the debauchery associated with it did little to help the situation. Of particular notoriety was the assistant envoy, Sir Alexander Burnes, whose womanising and raucous behaviour was renowned throughout Kabul[xviii].

The British denied that they were invading Afghanistan, instead claiming that they were merely supporting its legitimate “Shuja government” against foreign interference and factious opposition. However, with Persia ruled by a pro-Russian, it may well have been the case that Britain was trying to install a pro-British leader in Afghanistan to prevent Russia from becoming the dominant power and threatening India’s North-West Frontier[xix]. On the surface, Afghanistan appeared peaceful, and the British began to fulfil their promise of returning to India. The first troops went home before the year was out, leaving only 8,000 men to prop up the Shah[xx]. The presence of British troops in the city was not liked, but it was tolerated on the assumption that it was temporary. It soon became clear that Shuja’s rule could only be maintained with the presence of a greater number of British forces and their longer stay. As prolongation of occupation became a necessity, William Macnaghten allowed his soldiers to bring their families to Afghanistan in order to improve their morale. This further infuriated the Afghans, as it sent a clear signal that the British were setting up a permanent occupation. To the local population, the message seemed clear: the British were to become a permanent fixture[xxi]. In the British cantonment in Kabul, it was as if a small piece of British India had been transplanted to Afghan soil. Cocktail parties and dog shows were held in blissful ignorance of the forces stirring beyond the imperial enclave. The mood of the Afghan people had become restless. Dost Mohammad unsuccessfully attacked the British and their Afghan protégé, he was defeated, and he surrendered. He was exiled to India in late 1840. Nevertheless, the tide of opinion had begun to turn.

The British suffered their first serious setback between April-September 1840. Kahan garrison was besieged by disgruntled rebels. The British train carrying essential war supplies was carried off by the rebels. Moreover, a reinforcement task force was beaten back. As the supplies exhausted, the garrison surrendered in September. As a mark of respect for their bravery, the British were allowed to leave with their weapons, un-harassed. This act of Afghan magnanimity was not be repeated[xxii].

By this time, the British had voluntarily abandoned the fortress of Bala Hissar and shifted to a new cantonment built to the northeast of Kabul. The chosen location was low and swampy with hills on every side. The cantonment was too large in relation to the number of troops camped in it and had a defensive perimeter almost two miles long. Logistics were housed in a separate fort, 300 yards from the main cantonment. Given the troop to area ration, this complex was, indeed, indefensible.

During April-October 1841, a large number of disaffected Afghan tribes switched over to Dost Mohammad’s son, Akbar Khan, in Bamiyan and other areas north of the Hindu Kush mountains.  The emerging alliance organised into an effective military resistance by chiefs like Mir Masjidi Khan and others. In November 1841, a berserk mob in Kabul killed a senior British officer, Sir Alexander ‘Sekundar’ Burnes, and his aides. The British forces did not react. This encouraged the Afghans to rebel en-mass. The British situation soon deteriorated when Afghans stormed the poorly defended supply fort inside Kabul on November 9, 1841[xxiii].

In the following weeks, the British commanders tried to negotiate with Akbar Khan. Macnaghten’s demand that the British should not have dishonourable terms imposed upon them fell on deaf ears. The hawks in the Afghan court were now in control. Encouraged by a swelling insurgency, they had no intent to grant such concessions to the British forces. Macnaghten secretly approached and even offered to make Akbar Afghanistan’s wazir (effectively ruler of the country) in exchange for allowing the British to stay, while simultaneously disbursing large sums of money to have him assassinated; these acts of duplicity were duly reported to Akbar Khan. It appeared as if negotiations were stalling, a message came form Akbar Khan that in exchange for being made wazir, he would support Shah Shuja, allow the British to remain outside Kabul, and round up some of the rebel leaders. Macnaghten jumped at the deal and, against the advice, went out to meet Akbar Khan.

A meeting for direct negotiations between Macnaghten and Akbar was held near the cantonment on 23 December. It soon became clear that Akbar’s offer for talks was a bait to draw the British representative into the open. Macnaghten and the three officers accompanying him were arrested and killed by Akbar Khan. Macnaghten’s body was dragged through the streets of Kabul and displayed in the bazaar. General William Elphinstone had already partly lost command over his troops. Macnaghten’s death further eroded his credibility.[xxiv]. Having lost all authority, capability and capacity, the British forces now found themselves effectively under siege in their cantonment, with sporadic incoming fire from the surrounding hills.

With the bitter Afghan winter already setting in, British troops had no other option but to leave under humiliating conditions. Negotiations began on 25 November. On 1 January 1842, an agreement was reached that would allow safe passage for the British garrison and its dependants from Afghanistan. The withdrawal began five days later. The departing British entourage numbered around 16,500; of this about 4,500 were combatants, the rest were camp followers. The military force consisted mostly of Indian units and one British battalion, 44th Regiment of Foot[xxv].

From the start, what little order existed went off-centre. As prowling Afghans moved into the emptying cantonment, panic ran through the trailing camp-followers, causing a stampede and the abandonment of much of their stores. From this point on, the chain of command had completely collapsed; now it was every man for himself. The first day’s march took the column five miles away from Kabul before it made a disorganised camp for the night. Sunrise revealed the toll inflicted by the cold; frozen bodies were abandoned where they lay. As the journey resumed, the column was harassed constantly by Afghan horsemen passing at will through the loose ranks. From the high ground, irregulars sniped at the British below with their long range jezail rifles. The British, equipped with short-range muskets, designed for volley fire, were unable to reply[xxvi].

Afghan forces attacking retreating Indian troops[xxvii]

The column continued to the Tangi Tariki Pass, where the Ghilzais had blocked the road. Most of the column was annihilated by the raiders lying in wait. The rear-guard was totally wiped out. Only Elphistone, his staff, 100 cavalrymen, less than half of the 44th Foot, and a handful of artillerymen made it through. Akbar Khan sent a message to Elphistone inviting him to his camp. Elphistone accepted, hoping to discuss terms, but on arrival found he was now the warlord’s prisoner[xxviii].

Command devolved to Brigadier Anquetil. He hoped to use the cover of darkness to slip by the waiting Ghilzais. He found his way blocked, forcing the infantrymen to make a last desperate stand at Gandamak. British retreating elements were killed in large numbers as they crept their way down the 48 km stretch of inhospitable gorges and passes along the Kabul River between Kabul and Gandamak.

They were massacred at the Gandamak pass. The force had been reduced to fewer than forty men by a running battle through two feet of snow. The ground was frozen; the men had no shelter and had little food for weeks. Of the remaining weapons, there were approximately a dozen working muskets, the officers’ pistols and a few swords.

The remnants of the 44th were all killed except Captain James Souter, Sergeant Fair and seven soldiers who were taken prisoner. Captain Souter was spared death only because he was mistaken for a great chief due to the fine attire he was wearing. He had in fact wrapped the silken regimental colour around himself to avoid it falling into enemy hands[xxix]. The only British to reach Jalalabad was Dr William Brydon.[xxx]

Dr Brydon, approached the city on a dying horse, followed by a few sepoy stragglers, to tell the tale of the British army’s destruction. The myth of British invincibility had been shattered. Back in Kabul, on the other hand, Shah Shuja’s regime might have benefited from his ally’s defeat. With the foreign presence gone, one of the major causes of unrest was removed. Soon after, however, Shuja was assassinated. A scramble for power between rival factions followed. After much bloodshed, terms were reached: one of Shah Shuja’s sons was placed on the throne with Akbar Khan as his wazir.

Alongside attacks on the garrison at Kabul, Afghan forces also attacked other British forces in Afghanistan: stationed at Kandahar, Jalalabad and Ghazni. Ghazni was overrun, while the other garrisons held out until reinforcements arrived from India in early 1842. Akbar Khan was defeated near Jalalabad and plans were formulated for the recapture of Kabul and the restoration of British prestige[xxxi].

Meanwhile, the general election of 1841 brought a political change in London. The incoming Conservative government was determined to cut expenditure on Afghanistan. Anglo-Indian troop numbers were to be drawn down. They were to be replaced with a doubling in number of Shah Shuja’s own Afghan forces. The amount of money paid in bribes to tribal chiefs, including the Ghilzais who controlled the route between Kabul and Jalalabad, was to be drastically reduced. Lord Auckland suffered a stroke and was replaced by Lord Ellenborough.

Remnants of an Army by Elizabeth Butler depicting Dr William Brydon, the sole Briton to complete the catastrophic retreat from Kabul[xxxii]

Orders were issued to bring the war to an end. Forces at Kandahar and Jalalabad were instructed to leave Afghanistan after inflicting punitive reprisals and securing the release of prisoners. In August 1842, General Nott advanced from Kandahar, prowling the countryside; he seized Ghazni, and demolished its fortifications. Meanwhile, General Pollock used the Peshawar based force to clear the Khyber Pass to arrive at Jalalabad, where General Sales had already lifted the siege. From Jalalabad, General Pollock inflicted a further crushing defeat on Akbar Khan. The British forces defeated all opposition before taking Kabul in September. In Kabul, the great market was destroyed as belated retaliation for Macnaghton’s killing. British hostages were freed from Bamiyan.

On 12 October, satisfied that imperial prestige had been restored, the British left Kabul. With Shah Shuja’s successor unwilling to retake control, another of his sons was placed on the throne. It was not long, however, before Akbar Khan had him evicted, thus making room for his father, Dost Muhammad, to return from exile and retake his throne. The British withdrew from Afghanistan through the Khyber Pass. A grand review was held at Ferozepore and the first Anglo-Afghan War was at an end. Shah Shuja having been murdered the preceding March, Dost Muhammad was released from captivity. He re-established his authority in Kabul. He ruled until his death on June 9, 1863[xxxiii]. Lady Butler’s famous painting of Dr. William Brydon, initially thought to be the sole survivor, gasping his way to the British outpost in Jalalabad, helped make Afghanistan’s reputation as a graveyard for foreign armies and became one of the great epics of the empire[xxxiv].

In 1843, the British army chaplain Reverend G R Gleig wrote a memoir of the disastrous (First) Anglo-Afghan War, of which he was one of the very few survivors. He wrote that it was “a war begun for no wise purpose, carried on with a strange mixture of rashness and timidity, brought to a close after suffering and disaster, without much glory attached either to the government which directed, or the great body of troops which waged it. Not one benefit, political or military, was acquired with this war. Our eventual evacuation of the country resembled the retreat of an army defeated”[xxxv].

The British intervention had been a total disaster. The old regime, conservative and independent, had been restored, and both government and population inside Afghanistan were now resolutely anti-British. The war had been a military and political failure. From the start, the British backed the wrong man. The fact that Shah Shuja had already lost his throne once should have been proof enough that he was an unpopular, corrupt, and incompetent ruler[xxxvi].

A fundamental misunderstanding of the Afghan way of life completely undermined the British strategy. Afghanistan was not India. It was not like the vast Mughul and Maratha empires, which were centralised autocracies that could be defeated in a single campaign. Afghanistan could only be ruled with the support of the local tribal chiefs. Shah Shuja and the British failed to secure such alliances. Once in Kabul, the British were unwilling to associate with and consolidate the regime they had installed. The small British force in Kabul found itself without a clearly defined role. It did not like to interfere with Shah Shuja’s rule; it also lacked the strength to crush any serious rebellion that the proxy regime could face. It was neither honest as a consultant nor effective as a policeman. Ineffective leadership by Elphistone and infighting among his staff led to a collapse of command and control, culminating in the panic and chaos during the final retreat[xxxvii].

Until January 1842, the idea that an unorganised band of Afghan hill-men could have defeated the mighty Anglo-Indian Army would have been considered absurd. Yet, on the 13th of that month, when the lone and ravaged figure of Dr William Brydon arrived at Jalalabad, he brought with him the news that would destroy the myth of British invincibility in Central Asia. His story was a sinister portent of things to come, and it would leave the authorities in London and Calcutta scrabbling desperately for explanations[xxxviii]. The disaster of the First Afghan War was a substantial contributing factor to the outbreak of the War of Independence in India in 1857[xxxix]. The successful defence of Jallalabad and the progress of the Army of Retribution in 1842 could do only a little in retrieving the loss of the East India Company’s reputation[xl].

During the following thirty years, the Russians incrementally advanced southward towards Afghanistan. In 1842, the Russian border was on the other side of the Aral Sea from Afghanistan; but by 1847 their outposts had moved to the lower reaches of the Amu Darya. By 1865, Tashkent had been formally annexed; Samarkand met the same fate three years later. In 1873, the Russians concluded a peace treaty with Amir Alim Khan of the Manghit Dynasty, the ruler of Bukhara, which virtually stripped him of his independence. With this, Russian control extended to as far as the northern bank of the Amu Darya[xli].

The Second Anglo-Afghan War 1878-80

In 1878, the British invaded Afghanistan again, beginning the Second Anglo-Afghan War. It was nearly 4 decades after the fiasco of the First Anglo-Afghan War that Britain picked up the courage to interfere in Afghan affairs. The British annexation of the Punjab in 1849 after two bloody wars brought the boundaries of Afghanistan and British India into physical proximity. But Dost Muhammad was absorbed in consolidating his kingdom and the British, shocked by their defeat in 1841-2, were averse to risking further meddling in Afghanistan and followed a policy of ‘masterly inactivity’ until 1876. In that year a new Conservative administration under Disraeli decided that the expansion and consolidation of Russia in central Asia, which had also brought its southern border into direct contact with Afghanistan, constituted a real threat to India. Attempts to persuade the Amir, Sher Ali, to enter into an alliance and to accept a resident British envoy failed and Viceroy Lytton became convinced that Sher Ali had become pro-Russian rather than simply neutral[xlii].

In the summer of 1878, Sher Ali was pressured into receiving a Russian mission but refused to receive a parallel British embassy[xliii]. That gave Lytton the excuse he needed and three British columns invaded Afghanistan in November 1878, defeating the Afghans in the Khyber Pass at Ali Masjid and in the Kurram valley at Peiwar Kotal; in the south, Kandahar was occupied virtually without a fight. Sher Ali fled, he died in February 1879, and his successor, his eldest son Yakub Khan, requested for peace, which was signed at Gandamak in May 1879.  It provided inter alia for a British envoy to reside at Kabul.

In September 1879 the envoy, Sir Pierre Cavagnari, was murdered in Kabul with his escort. The only readily available striking force was the column under Major General Sir Frederick Roberts at Kurram. In a retaliatory move, Roberts led the Kabul Field Force over the Shutargardan Pass into central Afghanistan. The Afghan army was defeated at Char Asiab on 6 October 1879, and Kabul fell to the invaders. The British suspected that Amir Yaqub Khan had connived in the murder of Cavagnari and his staff; therefore he was compelled to abdicate. Yakub Khan was exiled to India and Roberts proceeded to execute those Afghans who were suspected of being involved in the envoy’s murder. Two months later, Ghazi Mohammad Jan Khan Wardak staged an uprising and attacked the British forces near Kabul. This forced Roberts to abandon Kabul and retire into his base at Sherpur where he was besieged for three weeks. On 23 December 1879 he defeated a major attack, routing his besiegers and reoccupying Kabul[xliv].

In May 1880 Sir Donald Stewart marched from Kandahar to Kabul, defeating an Afghan attack at Ahmed Khel en route, and took over the overall command from Roberts. The British still had no political solution and could see no option but to break up the country while retaining Kandahar. At this point in the summer of 1880 Abdurrahman Khan, a nephew of Sher Ali long exiled in Russia, decided to try his luck and entered Afghanistan[xlv]. The British accepted him as emir of Kabul and of whatever he could control, except for Kandahar which was to remain in British hands[xlvi]. At this moment Sher Ali’s younger son Ayub Khan, the governor of Herat, decided to make his own bid for the throne. He and his army were intercepted by a British brigade force at Maiwand[xlvii]. The British force was utterly defeated on 27 July 1880 and the survivors besieged until the Kabul to Kandahar march by Roberts at the end of August, who then defeated Ayub outside Kandahar on 1 September 1880[xlviii].

Kabul had been evacuated by the British in August 1880 and the cabinet, after much debate, decided to give up Kandahar, finally evacuating Afghanistan in May 1881. Amir Abdur Rahman accepted to abide by the Treaty of Gandamak[xlix], leaving the British in control of all the territories ceded by Yaqub Khan. He accepted the British control of Afghanistan’s foreign policy in exchange for protection and a subsidy. However he did not accept stationing of a British resident in Kabul. Having achieved all their other objectives, the British gave up the provocative policy of keeping a British resident in Kabul and they withdrew from Afghanistan[l]. Abdurrahman then gradually established his rule over the whole of Afghanistan, agreeing nevertheless to conduct his foreign relations in agreement with the government of India.

Like the previous war, the main drive for this war was also British tensions with Russia and Afghanistan that prompted the beating of war drums. This war ended in the Treaty of Gandamak after attaining all the British geopolitical objectives. After the treaty, most of the Anglo-Indian soldiers were pulled out from Afghanistan. Overall, Afghans were allowed internal sovereignty while they agreed to cede control of their foreign affairs to the British[li].

Third Anglo-Afghan War 1919

During the inter-war period commencing the end of the Second Afghan War in 1880, there was a four decades long spell of reasonably good relations between Britain and Afghanistan. During these easy times Afghanistan was ruled by Amir Abdur Rahman Khan & Amir Habibullah Khan. The British managed Afghan foreign policy through the payment of a large subsidy. Apparently, the country remained independent, however, under the Treaty of Gandamak (1879) it had accepted that in external matters it would “…have no windows looking on the outside world, except towards India.

The demise of Amir Abdur Rahman Khan in 1901 set the dice rolling for the war which actually began in 1919[lii]. He had successfully united Afghanistan and restored good relations with the British. His son Habibullah continued that policy[liii]. Habibullah, was an unreliable and unstable leader who alternately sided with Britain and Russia according to whoever paid the highest price. Afghans felt left out, and frustrated, when they were side stepped by Russians and the British while concluding the Saint Petersburg Convention, 1907[liv]. Nevertheless, Afghanistan exercised prudence and remained neutral during World War I.  Even though it had to ward off tremendous urgings from the Ottoman Empire, especially so, when the Caliphate entered the conflict on the side of Imperial Germany and the Caliph (the titular leader of Islam) declared a ‘jihad’ (holy war) against the Allies. Though Afghanistan remained neutral during the war, Amir Habibullah did receive a Turkish-German mission in Kabul and accepted military assistance from the Central Powers as he tried to engage both sides of the conflict for the best deal[lv]. Amir Habibullah failed to reign-in hawkish tribal leaders, who wanted to erode British rule in India. Turkish influence attempted to stimulate unrest along the frontier. A majority of the Indian Army had left its native land to fight overseas, and the news of British humbling at the hands of the Turks, encouraged the Turkish agents in their efforts towards sedition. This resulted in unrest amongst the Mohmands and then the Mahsuds in 1915. Barring isolated outbursts, the frontier between British India and Afghanistan generally remained peaceful and manageable. The Turkish-German mission had left Kabul in 1916, after convincing Habibullah that Afghanistan was a fully sovereign state[lvi].

At the end of the First World War, Amir Habibullah approached the British Indian government for reward in return for his support during the war. He sought British recognition of Afghanistan’s independence in regards to foreign policy. Moreover, he asked for a seat at the Versailles Peace Conference in 1919. This request was turned down by the Viceroy, Frederic Thesiger, 1st Viscount Chelmsford, on the pretext that attendance at the conference was restricted to the belligerents. Though further negotiations were scheduled, Habibullah was assassinated on 19 February 1919, before the negotiations could begin[lvii]. A period of dynastic instability followed. Two claimants emerged: Habibullah’s brother Nasrullah Khan declared himself as successor; in Kabul, Habibullah’s third son, Amanullah, also proclaimed himself as the legitimate Amir. However, there were speculations amongst the rank and file of Afghan army regarding Amanullah’s complicity in the death of his father. Amanullah had his uncle Nasrullah arrested for Habibullah’s murder and had him sentenced to life imprisonment; this act rendered Amanullah’s position as Amir somewhat fragile.

He needed some sort of out-of-the-box tactics to consolidate his power after seizing the throne in April 1919. He presented himself as a man of democratic ideals; he showed the intent to undertake governance reforms. He decreed the prohibition of forced labour, tyranny or oppression. He also declared that Afghanistan would be free and independent, no longer bound by the Treaty of Gandamak. Looking for a diversion from the internal strife in the Afghan court and, sensing advantage in capitalizing the rising civil unrest in India following the Amritsar massacre, Amanullah decided to invade British India to seize the old Afghan frontier provinces west of the Indus and to proclaim full Afghan independence[lviii]. It was a shrewd move because he could count on the support of his fellow-religionists among the Pathan trans-border tribes and it caught the Indian army in the throes of post-war demobilization[lix].

At that time, the Afghan regular army was not a very redoubtable force, it comprised of around 50,000 men. It was structured into 21 cavalry regiments and 75 infantry battalions, with the support of about 280 modern artillery pieces, organised into 70 batteries. In addition, the Afghan command could mobilise up to 80,000 frontier tribesmen and an indeterminate number of deserters from local militia units under British command.

The Afghan regular army was not ready for war, the upper levels of the officer corps were riddled with political intrigue. In his book on the campaign, Lieutenant-General George Molesworth gave the following evaluation of the Amir’s army: “Afghan regular units…were ill-trained, ill-paid, and probably under strength. The cavalry was little better than indifferent infantry mounted on equally indifferent ponies. Rifles varied between modern German, Turkish and British types, to obsolete Martinis and Snyders. Few infantry units had bayonets. Artillery was pony-drawn, or packs, and included modern 10cm Krupp howitzers, 75mm Krupp mountain guns and ancient 7 pounder weapons. There were a few, very old, four-barrel Gardiner machine guns. Ammunition was in short supply and distribution must have been very difficult. For the artillery mostly black powder was used, both as a propellant and bursting charge for shells. The Kabul arsenal workshops were elementary and mainly staffed by Sikh artificers with much ingenuity but little real skill. There was no organised transport and arrangements for supply were rudimentary”[lx]. Afghan command expected to appeal to the tribes, which could send up 20,000 or 30,000 fighters in the Khyber region alone. Tribal lashkars were probably the best troops that the Afghans had; they had excellent fighting quality, were well armed, mainly with indigenous weapons, and or with those stolen from the garrisons. Moreover lashkars had plenty of ammunition[lxi].

In contrast, the British could gather a much larger force. In May 1919, the British and British Indian Army, excluding frontier militia, totalled eight divisions, as well as five independent brigades of infantry and three of cavalry; approximately 340,000 troops[lxii]. Out of this, the entire North-West Frontier Province had three infantry divisions and two cavalry brigades. In addition, there was also GHQ India’s central reserve of one infantry division and one cavalry brigade. A strike force of two infantry divisions and two cavalry brigades was constituted for the Khyber front, with a contingency to use it also in the Tochi and Kurram areas, on as required basis. One infantry division and a so-called “mounted” brigade were tasked for operations on the Baluchistan–Zhob front. This effort was supplemented by three frontier brigades as well as a number of frontier militia and irregular units.

There was an acute shortage of Artillery; three frontier divisions each had a British field artillery brigade of the Royal Field Artillery with two batteries of 18-pounders and one battery of 4.5-inch howitzers, and an Indian mountain brigade with two batteries of 2.75-inch mountain guns. The cavalry brigades each had a Royal Horse Artillery battery with 13-pounders. There were also two batteries of tractor drawn 6-inch howitzer and two British mountain batteries of the Royal Garrison Artillery, reinforced with 3.7 inch Mountain Howitzers. However, most batteries had only four guns. Additionally, there were also 15 pounder guns of the Frontier Garrison Artillery[lxiii].  Machine guns, at least on the Khyber front, were old[lxiv].

Nevertheless, the British were able to acquire command and control edge with the gainful employment of motor transport and wireless communications. Usage of armoured cars and RAF detachments augmented their firepower and enhanced the outreach. Even Kabul was bombed. Aircraft were also utilized as airborne observation posts to direct the artillery fire of 60-pounder guns. The RAF’s No 31 Squadron and No 114 Squadron participated in these operations[lxv].

However, the British were handicapped by an acute shortage of manpower. The Indian army was fatigued after the long war. The British will to fight and its military industry’s capacity had sapped. The Indian Army had been heavily committed to the First World War and had suffered colossal casualties. A large number of its units were still overseas. Post war demobilisation had resulted in loss of experienced manpower[lxvi]. Prior to 1914 there had been 61 British regiments serving in India. However, of these all but 10 (two cavalry and eight infantry) had been diverted to Europe or the Middle East theatres. In their place, British units of the Territorial Army (TA), comprising of part time soldiers had been brought to India, just to release regular units for fighting in France. These semi-soldiers had performed routine garrison duty, away from their families for four years. Most of these men were disaffected, looking forward to demobilisation and returning to Britain. They were neither prepared nor suited for a tough campaign in inhospitable terrain and weather.

Actual operations of the third Anglo Afghan war began on May 03, 1919 when Afghan troops crossed the frontier at the western end of the Khyber Pass and captured the town of Bagh. This town was critically important to the British and Indians as it catered to water requirements of Landi Kotal, a garrison to just two companies of troops from the Indian Army. This apparently small intrusion was actually a precursor of a wider invasion plan. This attack was launched ahead of schedule, to coincide with an uprising that was being planned in Peshawar for 8 May. The British Chief Commissioner of the North West Frontier, Sir George Roos-Keppel, was aware of the uprising plan. He convinced the Viceroy, Lord Chelmsford, to respond to the occupation of Bagh before it could lead to further unrest in Peshawar.

Therefore, the Indian government declared war on Afghanistan on 6 May alongside a general mobilisation order for the British and Indian forces. It was decided to reinforce the two companies of Sikhs and Gurkhas at Landi Kotal. The mobilisation process had just begun and at that stage there was only one battalion available for this job. On May 07, the 2nd Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry was moved clandestinely through the Khyber Pass. Meanwhile, a cordon was thrown around Peshawar and demands were made for the population to hand over the uprising’s ringleaders amid threats that the city’s water supply would be cut[lxvii]. Citizens of Peshawar complied and by dawn on May 8, the situation in the city was under control and the threat of an uprising abated.

By this stage mobilization picked up pace and the Landi Kotal garrison grew to brigade-size, with the arrival of the rest of the 1st Infantry Brigade under Brigadier G.D. Crocker. On May 09, the British and Indian troops launched an attack on the Afghans that had seized Bagh the previous week. The attack, however, failed when the brigade commander decided to split his forces and detach almost half of his force to protect his flank and as a result was unable to achieve the necessary concentration of force to capture all of his objectives. Coinciding with this, three BE2c aircraft from the Royal Air Force carried out a bombing raid on Dacca in Afghanistan, attacking a group of hostile tribesmen[lxviii].

Soon after, the 2nd and 3rd Infantry Brigades of the 1st Infantry Division were dispatched from Nowshera and Abbottabad, concentrating at Jamrud and Kacha Garhi. Concurrently, the 6th Brigade from the 2nd Infantry Division moved up to Peshawar from Rawalpindi. On May 11, a second attack was launched on Bagh by the 1st and 2nd Infantry Brigades, under Major General Fowler. This time it proved successful. The Afghans were pushed to Lower Khyber, where they were subjected to further indirect fire from mountain guns deployed in ambush role. Afghans were forced back over the border. The RAF followed them across and carried out a number of bombing runs. The smash was comprehensive, and the tribesman that might have otherwise been tempted to counterattack in support of the Afghans decided to stay put. Instead they engaged in looting the battlefield and gathering arms and ammunition that retreating Afghans had left behind. During the second Battle of Bagh, around 100 Afghans were killed and 300 wounded, while 8 from the British and Indian forces were killed and 31 wounded.[lxix]

Amir Amanullah declared that he had no aggressive designs; however, Roos-Keppel decided to continue the advance and ordered the army to pursue the Afghans across the border. On May 13, British and Indian troops regained western Khyber without opposition and occupied Dacca. The British camp was poorly sited for defence and it came under intense long-range artillery barrage followed by an infantry assault. The assault was repulsed. The British launched a counter-attack the following day; by May 17, the area was secured and the Afghans withdrew[lxx].

However, British and Indian forces had launched an attack, on May 16, on ‘Stonehenge Ridge’, where an Afghan contingent of about 3,000 men had encamped; they were equipped with a number of artillery pieces and machine guns. Under cover of a preliminary bombardment to soften up the Afghan defences, men from the 11th Sikhs had launched the initial assault. The attack came to a halt  when the force exhausted their ammunition at 08.00 hours. The attack resumed after the resupply was affected. Afghans had left the battlefield, leaving behind most of their equipment, artillery and a number of standards. During the assault the British and Indian forces losses amounted to 22 killed and 157 wounded, while Afghan losses were estimated at around 200 killed and 400 wounded[lxxi].

At this time, interesting developments were taking place alongside the British Ground Lines of Communications (GLOCs) through the Khyber. Troops of ‘Khyber Rifles’ began to desert en masse. It was decided to disarm and disband the regiment to stop the spread of similar sentiment to other regiments. However, Lord Chelmsford decided that the situation could be resolved by continuing the advance further into Afghanistan and gave the order for the brigade in Dacca to march towards Jalalabad. Nevertheless, this order could not be carried out as fighting broke out further to the south and in eastern Khyber. On May 23, the British posts around the Kurram valley had to be abandoned. The following day Handley Page bombers attacked Kabul however, it did little to stem the tide and the supply situation in Landi Kotal grew worse[lxxii].

On 27 May, the British commander in Quetta decided to attack the Afghan fortress at Spin Baldak. He captured it and hence was able to arrest the initiative in the South. Nevertheless, the situation in the centre of the combat zone, i.e. around Kurram, remained frantic for the British[lxxiii]. General Nadir Khan was commanding the forces in this area. His force comprised of around 14 battalions. On the other side, the British at Thal, under Brigadier General Alexander Eustace, had about four battalions[lxxiv]. To add to the handicap, troops protecting the upper Tochi Valley were drawn from the disgruntled North Waziristan Militia. Due to the apprehension that the militia troops would rise up against him, the Brigade Commander ordered to abandon the militia outposts. This resulted in mass desertion of many of the militiamen. This estrangement proliferated and the South Waziristan Militia in Wana turned on their officers and loyal men and physically attacked them. The survivors, under Major Russell, the commandant, were forced to fight their way out to a column of the North Zhob Militia which had been sent out to relieve them[lxxv].

Nader khan was monitoring the deteriorating situation on the British side. Hence he decided to capitalize on an opportunity. He attacked Thal. As the Frontier Constabulary had abandoned their posts, on the night of 28/29 May, the Afghan side was able to occupy a tower at a distance of 500 yards (460 m) from the fort and from there they were able to set fire to a number of food dumps. This made the situation critical. Supply had already been marginal. Moreover, brigadier Eustace’s force was outnumbered, outgunned and outclassed[lxxvi]. He possessed no regular British infantry and his four battalions were all inexperienced Indian units, comprising of fresh recruits.  After repelling an infantry assault on 29 May, the following day the garrison was subjected to a heavy shelling from Afghan artillery guns[lxxvii].

The British decided to bring-in the Lahore based 16th Infantry Division. It consisted of two brigades of infantry i.e. the 45th and 46th Brigades. The objective was to advance towards Jalalabad. While part of the division was detached to defend Kohat. The 45th Infantry Brigade under Brigadier General Reginald Dyer—who had been at the centre of the Amritsar incident[lxxviii]—set out to relieve Eustace’s force at Thal. Dyer’s force consisted of only one British battalion, the 1st/25th London Regiment, as well as Dogras, Punjabis and Gurkhas.  Short of rations and possessing no transport, they were forced to march through intense heat to effect the relief. Despite the conditions, however, the British and Indian troops under Dyer’s command rose to the occasion and covered the last 18 miles (29 km) in less than 12 hours and on 1 June they ran into a blocking force of tribesman that barred both the northern and southern approaches to Thal. Dyer attacked both ends with his artillery, while sending his infantry against the southern approach. Unable to withstand the attack, the tribesmen withdrew and as a result the way through to Eustace’s garrison was cleared. During the siege, the British losses included eight killed, four deaths due to wounds and 82 wounded[lxxix].

On the dawn of the following day, June 2, Dyer’s brigade launched an attack on the Afghan regulars that were positioned away to the west of Thal and as this attack went in, Nadir Khan sent an envoy to convey a message to the brigade commander. The message for Dyer indicated that Amir Amanullah had ordered Nadir Khan to cease hostilities and Nadir Khan asked Dyer if he would honour the request for an armistice that Amanullah had sent to the Indian government on May 31[lxxx]. Dyer was unaware of any such request, therefore he was uncertain about the authenticity of the message and thought that request for a cease fire could be a dodge. Dyer decided to not take any chance and sent the return message: “My guns will give an immediate reply, but your letter will be forwarded to the Divisional Commander”[lxxxi].  Dyer continued his attack, as Nadir Khan’s force withdrew from the area, Dyer followed them with cavalry and armoured cars from the 37th Lancers, while the RAF, using machine guns and iron bombs, attacked and dispersed about 400 tribesmen that were in the area which posed a threat of counter attack. On 3 June, the Afghan camp at Yusef Khel was seized by two platoons from the 1st/25th London and two troops from the 37th Lancers supported by a section of guns from the 89th Battery. Shortly afterwards the armistice was signed. With this a cease fire came into effect, however, some fighting continued, particularly in Chitral and in North Baluchistan.  It was not until August 8, 1919 that the settlement was finally concluded when the ‘Treaty of Rawalpindi’ was signed[lxxxii].

This war saw an effective employment of air power. Air assets were limited in numbers and were not of high quality. Yet, airpower proved to be an effective asset that the British possessed during this conflict. It facilitated in extending the reach and hitting the heartland of the enemy; even Kabul was bombed. Aircraft were used to harass the retreating enemy and to disrupt their attempts to re-group and reattach. The ability of the British to project airpower, even through small scale raids, had significant psychological affects. For example, the single-plane raid on the palace which took place of May 24, 1919, though causing little physical damage, greatly subdued the morale of Afghan citizens by generating a general sense of insecurity as Kabul did not have air power to respond in kind. This contributed to the mellowing down of Amir Amanullah to request an armistice. As a result of this war, many valuable lessons were learned about the potential of airpower in the region. After this war, the Chief of the Air Staff, Sir Hugh Trenchard, proposed controlling the Afghan frontier by air power alone. This strategy had earlier proved to be effective in Mesopotamia, Aden and the Transjordan. However, due to the uniqueness of the North-West Frontier and due to inter-service politics, the plan was not accepted until later. In 1937, it was eventually decided that should another war break out with Afghanistan, or in the event of a major tribal uprising, the RAF would take the offensive, while the ground forces would act defensively[lxxxiii]. Further south, in Baluchistan, the threat of an Afghan invasion was countered by the British attacking the strong Afghan fortress of Spin Baldak, which guarded the road to Kandahar. The fort was stormed and captured in an old-style assault on 27 May 1919, putting an end to the Afghan threat.

King Amanullah objected to the British about the air raids on Kabul citing British condemnation of the German Zeppelin attacks on London. In his letter to the British government he said, “It is a matter of great regret that the throwing of bombs by Zeppelins on London was denounced as a most savage act and the bombardment of places of worship and sacred spots was considered a most abominable operation, while now we see with our own eyes that such operations were a habit which is prevalent amongst all civilized people of the West.[lxxxiv]” During the course of the conflict, British aircraft losses included at least one plane that crashed and two that were shot down.

The Third Anglo-Afghan War was fought between 6 May– 8 August 1919 in the areas spanning the Khyber Pakhtunkhawa province of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Around 50,000 Afghan men with outdated weapons and up to 80,000 tribesmen were pitched against Eight divisions, five independent brigades and three cavalry brigades , plus a number of modern aircraft, armoured cars and artillery[lxxxv]. War ended with the Treaty of Rawalpindi. Afghanistan won a strategic and political victory and reacquired control over its foreign affairs and became a fully independent and sovereign state. The British could claim tactical victory and gains in the form of reaffirmation of the Durand Line[lxxxvi]. The Afghans agreed not to foment trouble on the British side.

Passing a judgement about the outcome of the Third Anglo-Afghan War is somewhat difficult. Apparently, because of the fact that the British repulsed the Afghan invasion and drove them from Indian territory while Afghan cities felt the weight of the Royal Air Force’s bombers, the result of the conflict was a British tactical victory. However, in doing so, the British and Indian troops suffered almost double the amount of casualties that the Afghans suffered, and so it was perhaps a strategic victory for the Afghans. Therefore, at best, it can only be seen as a minor tactical victory for the British. The circumstances leading to the war were also much murkier than might seem obvious.

It is rather questionable what exactly Amir Amanullah was hoping to muster as he must have known that even up against a depleted Indian Army he stood no chance in actually winning a tactical victory in a prolonged conflict. However, Amanullah may have felt that he could win a strategic victory. While analysing the settlement—‘Treaty of Rawalpindi’— it could be concluded that this was in fact achieved. Moreover, as a result of the peace treaty, the British withdrew the subsidy that they were paying the Afghans and withdrew from them the right to import arms from India[lxxxvii]. However, the British clout declined to the point that the Afghans re-assumed the right to conduct their own foreign affairs as a fully independent state.

From the British perspective, the Durand Line, which had long been a controversial issue, was reaffirmed as the political boundary separating Afghanistan from the North-West Frontier, and the Afghans made an undertaking to stop interference on the British side of the line. Thus, in effect, both sides could make claim that they achieved something from the war.

But while the war was over, its effects were long lasting. Ethno-sectarian fault lines, nationalism, disruption and unrest was to stir up more trouble in the years to come, particularly in Waziristan and Baluchistan. By default, the tribesmen are always poised to exploit weakness, whether real or perceived. They often banded together in the common cause of disorder and unrest. They had become well-armed too, as a result of the conflict.  They had benefitted greatly from the weapons and ammunition that the Afghans had left behind as well as from the influx of manpower due to the large number of deserters from the militia that had joined their ranks. With these they launched a campaign of resistance to British authority on the North-West Frontier that lasted years after the end of the Raj[lxxxviii].


The short term effects were that the British, after several bloody failures, learned that Afghanistan, then as now, is easy to take but almost impossible to hold and fatal to leave. No government— not even an Afghan one— has ever managed to maintain control over the whole place. In the medium to long term the British learned that this did not matter. If they could not rule the place, nor could the Russians who were pushing hard to absorb it en-route to warm water naval bases of the Indian Ocean. Instead they concentrated on containment. With the co-operation of the excellent native cavalry and infantry recruited locally (men who knew the area and its customs, as well as being just as fierce fighters as the Afghan tribes) they settled to simply defend the NW frontier, occasionally mounting punitive incursions when the Afghan raids (for cattle, women and money) got too bold. Between the wars the RAF had a few squadrons of air force stationed there, which also helped[lxxxix].

In the very long term, these wars had no effect at all. Neither the Russians nor the Anglo-American alliance seem to have learned any lesson. Afghanistan is a nasty little place with well entrenched customs. If only one could learn to quarantine it, not try to civilise or rule it.[xc] A peace treaty was signed on 8 August 1919, bringing the third Anglo-Afghan war to a close but also formal recognition of full Afghan independence. The war had caused upheaval among the trans-border tribes, leading to a major campaign in Waziristan in 1919-21, and was perhaps the most critical frontier campaign ever fought by the Indian army[xci]. Current dilemmas about conducting a military operation in North Waziristan Agency have their roots to that campaign. As of 2014, not much has changed. Americans are busy in draw down and when British forces pull down the Union Jack {hopefully} for the last time in Afghanistan this year, it will be a hugely symbolic moment

The author is a Consultant on Policy and Strategic Response at the Islamabad Policy Research Institute [IPRI].  He is a retired Air Commodore and a former assistant chief of air staff, Pakistan Air Force.  During Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, as a Flight Lieutenant of the Pakistan Air Force, he was on active duty deployments on the Pak-Afghan border, covering the stretch from Landi Kotal to Waziristan.

[i] “British forces’ century of unbroken warfare set to end with Afghanistan exit”, (accessed on february 18, 2014).

[ii] S. Iftikhar Murshid, ”The Afghan Turmoil From 1747 to 2001”, Criterion Quartely, (October/December 2009), Volume 4 , Number 4, Islamabd.

[iii] GP Tate, “The Kingdom of Afghanistan”, p111.

[iv] Sir Thomas Holdich. “The Indian Bordeland,” Methuen, 1901, quoted in J.C. Griffiths “Afghanistan, p 20.

[v] George Clode, “The First Anglo-Afghan War, 1839-1842”, The Military History Monthly, (October 01, 2010). (accessed on August 12, 2012).

[vi] Ibid.

[vii] Brian Robson, “Anglo-Afghan wars (1838-1919). If Alexander the Great failed, what hope have we?”, (accessed on August, 23, 2012).

[viii] Mohammed Ali, MA, Afghanistan (The Mohammedzai Period (Kabul : Kabul University, Kabul 1959, printed at The Punjab Educational Press, 35, Nabah Road, Lahore).12.

[ix] Ibid.

[x] Ibid.

[xi] Ralph H. Magnus and Eden Naby, Afghanistan: Mauulah, Marx, and Mujahid ( Boulder, Colarado, Westview Press,2002), 33

[xii] Ibid.

[xiii] Ibid. “To justify his plan, Lord Auckland issued the Simla Manifesto in October 1838, setting forth the necessary reasons for British intervention in Afghanistan. The manifesto stated that in order to ensure the welfare of India, the British must have a trustworthy ally on India’s western frontier. The [official] British [position] that their troops were merely supporting [Shah] Shuja’s small army in retaking what was once his throne” was generally seen as pretext for incorporating Afghanistan into the British Empire. “Although the Simla Manifesto stated that British troops would be withdrawn as soon as Shuja was installed in Kabul, Shuja’s rule depended entirely on British arms to suppress rebellion and on British funds to buy the support of tribal chiefs.

[xiv] “First Anglo-Afghan War”, Wikipedia (accessed on August, 12, 2012)

[xv] “A British-Indian force attacks the Ghazni fort during the First Afghan War, 1839”. This is a file from the Wikimedia Commons. , (accessed on February 2014)

[xvi] Ibid.

[xvii] Ibid.

[xviii] George Clode, “The First Anglo-Afghan War, 1839-1842”, The Military History Monthly, (October 01, 2010). (accessed on August 12, 2012).


[xx] Ibid.

[xxi] Ibid.

[xxii] “First Anglo-Afghan War”, Wikipedia (accessed on August, 12, 2012).

[xxiii] Clode, “The First Anglo-Afghan War, 1839-1842”, The Military History Monthly, (October 01, 2010). (accessed on August 12, 2012).

[xxiv] Ibid.

[xxv] Lady Sale, A Journal of the Disasters in Afghanistan (London 1843, reprinted by Sang-e-Meel Publications, Lahore in 1985), 227.

[xxvi] “The Battle of Kabul and the retreat to Gandamak”, The First Afghan War, (acessed on September. 03, 2012).

[xxvii] Romance of Empire India, this is a file from the Wikimedia Commons,,_1842..gif (accessed on February 11,2014)

[xxviii] Ibid.

[xxix] Lady Sale, A Journal of the Disasters in Afghanistan (London 1843, reprinted by Sang-e-Meel Publications, Lahore in 1985),255

[xxx] Ibid., ‘Remnants of an Army’ by Elizabeth Butler portraying William Brydon arriving at the gates of Jalalabad as the only survivor of a 16,500 strong evacuation from Kabul in January 1842. This is a better copy of a file in Commons (this image is in the public domain due to its age). This is a file from the Wikimedia Commons.

[xxxi] Ibid.

[xxxii] Ibid.

[xxxiii] Anglo-Afghan wars (1838-1919). If Alexander the Great failed, what hope have we? : Best Answer – Chosen by Voters; (accessed on August, 23, 2012).

[xxxiv] “First Anglo-Afghan War”, Wikipedia (accessed on August, 12, 2012).

[xxxv] Ibid.

[xxxvi] Lady Sale, A Journal of the Disasters in Afghanistan (London 1843, reprinted by Sang-e-Meel Publications, Lahore in 19195),5.

[xxxvii] Ibid.

[xxxviii] George Clode, “The First Anglo-Afghan War, 1839-1842”, The Military History Monthly, (October 01, 2010). (accessed on August 12, 2012).

[xxxix] “The Battle of Kabul and the retreat to Gandamak”, The First Afghan War, (acessed on September. 03, 2012).

[xl] Ibid.

[xli] Ibid.

[xlii] Anglo-Afghan wars (1838-1919). If Alexander the Great failed, what hope have we? : Best Answer – Chosen by Voters; (accessed on August, 23, 2012).

[xliii] Ibid.

[xliv] Ralph H. Magnus and Eden Naby, Afghanistan: Mauulah, Marx, and Mujahid ( Boulder, Colarado, Westview Press,2002), 35


[xlv] Ibid.

[xlvi] Ibid.

[xlvii] Mohammed Ali, MA, Afghanistan (The Mohammedzai Period (Kabul : Kabul University, Kabul 1959, printed at The Punjab Educational Press, 35, Nabah Road, Lahore).111.

[xlviii] Ibid.

[xlix] Ibid.

[l] Mohammed Ali, MA, Afghanistan: The Mohammedzai Period (Kabul : Kabul University, Kabul 1959, printed at The Punjab Educational Press, 35, Nabah Road, Lahore).122



[lii] Ralph H. Magnus and Eden Naby, Afghanistan: Mauulah, Marx, and Mujahid ( Boulder, Colarado, Westview  Press,  2002), 37.

[liii] Ibid.

[liv] Mohammed Ali, MA, Afghanistan (The Mohammedzai Period (Kabul : Kabul University, Kabul 1959, printed at The Punjab Educational Press, 35, Nabah Road, Lahore).150.

[lv] Ibid.

[lvi] Jeffery J. Roberts, The origin of Conflict in Afghanistan, (Westport, Connecticut, London, Praegers Publishers, 88 Post Road West, Westport, 2003), 38.

[lvii] Lieutenant  General Mac Munn, Afghanistan, (Published by M/S Nisa traders, 7- Cloth Market, Quetta, Pakistan, 1978), 257.

[lviii] Anglo-Afghan wars (1838-1919). If Alexander the Great failed, what hope have we? : Best Answer – Chosen by Voters; (accessed  August, 23, 2012)

[lix] Ibid.

[lx] Ibid.

[lxi] Ibid.

[lxii] Mohammed Ali, MA, Afghanistan (The Mohammedzai Period (Kabul : Kabul University, Kabul 1959, printed at The Punjab Educational Press, 35, Nabah Road, Lahore).156.

[lxiii] Ibid.

[lxiv] “Third  Anglo-Afghan War”, Wikipedia, (accessed on September 03, 2012).

[lxv] Ibid.


[lxvii] Lieutenant  General Mac Munn, Afghanistan, (Published by M/S Nisa traders, 7- Cloth Market, Quetta, Pakistan, 1978), 260.

[lxviii] “Third  Anglo-Afghan War”, Wikipedia, (accessed on September 03, 2012).

[lxix] Ibid.

[lxx] Ibid.

[lxxi] Ibid.

[lxxii] Ibid.

[lxxiii] Lieutenant  General Mac Munn, Afghanistan, (Published by M/S Nisa traders, 7- Cloth Market, Quetta, Pakistan, 1978), 272.

[lxxiv] Lieutenant  General Mac Munn, Afghanistan, (Published by M/S Nisa traders, 7- Cloth Market, Quetta, Pakistan, 1978), 273.

[lxxv] Ibid.

[lxxvi] Ibid.

[lxxvii] Ibid.

[lxxviii] Ibid.

[lxxix] Ibid.

[lxxx] Ibid.

[lxxxi] Ibid.

[lxxxii] Stephen Tanner, Afghanistan : A military History from Alexander the Great to the Fall of the Taliban,(New York: DA CAPO Prerss,2001),219.

[lxxxiii] “Third  Anglo-Afghan War”, Wikipedia, (accessed on September 03, 2012).

[lxxxiv] Stephen Tanner, Afghanistan : A military History from Alexander the Great to the Fall of the Taliban,(New York: DA CAPO Prerss,2001),219.

[lxxxv] Jeffery J. Roberts, The origin of Conflict in Afghanistan, (Westport, Connecticut, London, Praegers Publishers, 88 Post Road West, Westport, 2003), 40.

[lxxxvi] “Third  Anglo-Afghan War”, Wikipedia, (accessed on September 03, 2012).

[lxxxvii] Ralph H. Magnus and Eden Naby, Afghanistan: Mauulah, Marx, and Mujahid ( Boulder, Colarado, Westview Press, 2002), 41.

[lxxxviii] Brian Robson. Anglo-Afghan wars (1838-1919), If Alexander the Great failed, what hope have we?, (accessed on August, 23, 2012)

[lxxxix] Ibid.

[xc] Ibid.

[xci] Ibid.