The First Anglo Afghan War, Part I — The Great Game
Afghanistan has always been the crossroads of mighty empires since Alexander the Great invaded the country in ancient antiquity. Thus, over the centuries mighty empires have sought to control Afghanistan and Central Asia, a quest which in the 19th century was called “The Great Game”. In the late 1830’s, both the borders of the British Empire and Russian Empire were closing in on Afghanistan. After the Crimean War, Russia was not on good terms with the British, and it was feared that the Russians would invade Afghanistan, using it as a stepping stone for a further invasion of British controlled India. The Brits sent an envoy to form and alliance with Afghanistan’s rulle, Dost Mohammed. However Mohammed wanted the British to in turn ally with Afghanistan against the Sikhs, who had conquered the former Afghan territory of Peshawar. This was impossible, since the British had an alliance with the Sikhs. Then the Russians allied with Persia, and laid siege to Afghan territory in the west. It seemed as though Russia was making its move, so in 1839 Britain decided to invade Afghanistan.
During the spring of 1839 British forces under the command of Sir John Keene crossed the border into Afghanistan from the southern passes. The 20,500 troops under Keene’s command were not regular British Army, but British East India Company forces. From the time of the first British colonies in India up until the mid 1850’s, the East India Company ruled and administrated the British Dominion of India. The East India Company had its own army and navy, and due to the wealth of the company Company forces were actually better equipped and better trained than most regular military forces. The British East India Army was a collection of Indian soldiers called sepoys, as well as men recruited from Britain, and a number of Afghan allies.
While traveling through the rugged mountain terrain of the Bolan Pass in southern Pakistan/Afghanistan, the British Army had to leave most of its heavy equipment, large cannon, and pack animals behind. This was a problem because the main obstacle in between the mountains and Kabul was the city of Kandahar, guarded by the “impregnable” walls of the fortress of Ghazni. The British reached Kandahar on May 4th, 1839, and immediately it was apparent that the fortress of Ghazni would be a formidable challenge. With 70 foot high walls, a flooded moat, large hardwood gates which had been sealed with large rocks, and plenty of food and water for a lengthy siege, it seemed that the fortress would be impenetrable without heavy artillery. Artillery which the British had been forced to leave behind. However, interrogation of captured Afghan soldiers revealed that the north facing gate was left unsealed in order to allow communication and supplies to and from Kabul. On July 22nd, under the cover of light artillery fire Indian engineers blew the gate with explosives. The British immediately stormed the fortress, engaging the Afghans in hand to hand combat. The fighting lasted all day and all night. By morning, British forces had reach the city center and had captured Kandahar. The British claimed losses of 17 dead and 165 wounded. The Afghans lost around 500 men.
The fall of Kandahar cleared the way for the final march on the capital of Kabul. Shortly afterward, the government of Dost Mohammed quickly collapsed, and Mohammed was forced flee to what is now modern Uzbekistan. Seven days later British forces marched unopposed in Kabul. There were no victory celebrations or warm greetings offered by the Afghans, just indignant stares and angry glances. To the British, conquering Afghanistan was easy. However, as many great empires throughout history have learned, holding Afghanistan is much more difficult. Little did the British know, but their great victory at Kandahar and Kabul would lead to one of the worst British military disasters of the 19th century.
BBC News: At least 40 people have been killed in a bomb blast at a Shiite mosque in southern Pakistan, officials say. Sunni militants linked to the Pakistani Taliban said they carried out the attack, which took place shortly after Friday prayers.
A Marine Corps Super Stallion helicopter from VMM-266 (REIN), 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, flies in route to deliver relief supplies during humanitarian assistance operations in the southern province of Sindh, Pakistan. Photo by Capt. Paul Duncan.
PAKISTAN, Karachi : A Pakistani resident helps a heatstroke victim at a
market area during a heatwave in Karachi on June 23, 2015. The death
toll from a heatwave in southern Pakistan on June 23 passed 450 as
medics battled to treat victims after imposing a state of emergency in
hospitals, health officials said. AFP PHOTO / Rizwan TABASSUM
PAKISTAN, Mithi : A Pakistani child affected by famine is treated at a government hospital in Mithi, the capital of Tharparkar district, some 300 kilometres from Karachi on March 11, 2014. At least 62 children have died in a district of southern Pakistan where thousands are suffering from malnutrition, officials said. AFP PHOTO/Rizwan TABASSUM
The Indian Roofed Turtle (Pangshura tecta) occupies the drainages of the Indus, Ganges, and Brahmaputra Rivers, from Pakistan to Bangladesh. Isolated populations occur in southern Pakistan and in west-central India. This species is collected for consumption as food and for sale on the international pet market.
A tiger cools off with a block of ice at Karachi Zoo in Pakistan.
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