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Lecture 7. “Great Game” and Afghanistan

 

The First Anglo-Afghan war, 1939-1842, as a first conflict during the Great Game. Backgriund of the First Anglo-Afghan war. The British invasion of Afghanistan. Withdrawal of the British and Indian troops from Kabul in 1842. Consequences of the First Anglo-Afghan War. The Second Anglo-Afghan war, 1878. Gandmak treaty of 1879. Massacre and battle of 1879 in Kandaghar. The Diplomatic aoutcomes of the Second Anglo-Afghan war. Emir Abdu Rahman and assurance that Afghanistan would not have relations with any nation except Britain, and Britains assuarance that it would not meddle in Afghanistan’s internal affairs. Afghanisistan as Britain’s ally.

1. The First Anglo-Afghan War (also known as Auckland's Folly) was fought between the British East India Company and Afghanistan from 1839 to 1842, and ended in an overall Afghan victory. It is famous for the killing of 4,500 British and Indian soldiers, plus 12,000 of their camp followers, by Afghan tribal fighters, but the British defeated the Afghans in the concluding engagement. It was one of the first major conflicts during the Great Game, the 19th century competition for power and influence in Asia between the United Kingdom and theRussian Empire.

2. In the 1830s the British Empire was firmly entrenched in India, but by 1837 Lord Palmerston and John Hobhouse, fearing the instability of Afghanistan, the Sindh, and the increasing power of the Sikh kingdom to the northwest, raised the spectre of a possible Russian invasion of India through Afghanistan. The Russian Empire was slowly extending its domain into Central Asia, and this was seen as an encroachment south that might prove fatal for the British Company rule in India. The British sent an envoy to Kabul to form an alliance with Afghanistan's Amir, Dost Mohammad Khan against Russia.

Dost Mohammad had recently lost Afghanistan's second capital of Peshawar to the Sikh Empire and wanted support to retake it, but the British were unwilling. When Governor-General of India Lord Auckland heard about the arrival of Russian envoy Yan Vitkevich in Kabul and the possibility that Dost Mohammad might turn to Russia for support, his political advisers exaggerated the threat. British fears of a Russian invasion of India took one step closer to becoming a reality when negotiations between the Afghans and Russians broke down in 1838. The Qajar dynasty of Persia, with Russian support, attempted the Siege of Herat (1838) but backed down when Britain threatened war.

Russia, wanting to increase its presence in South and Central Asia, had formed an alliance with Qajar Persia, which had territorial disputes with Afghanistan as Herat had been part of the Safavid Persia before 1709. Lord Auckland's plan was to drive away the besiegers and replace the ruler of Afghanistan with one who was pro-British, Shuja Shah Durrani.

The British denied that they were invading Afghanistan, claiming they were merely supporting its "legitimate" Shuja government "against foreign interference and factious opposition."



An army of 21,000 British and Indian troops under the command of John Keane, 1st Baron Keane (subsequently replaced by Sir Willoughby Cotton and then by William Elphinstone) set out from Punjab in December 1838. With them was 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 crossed the Bolan Pass, reached the Baloch city of Quetta, and begun their march to Kabul. They advanced through rough terrain, across deserts and 4,000-metre-high mountain passes, but made good progress and finally set up camps at Kandahar on 25 April 1839.

On 22 July 1839, in a surprise attack, the British-led forces captured the fortress of Ghazni, which overlooks a plain leading eastward into the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The British troops blew up one city gate and marched into the city in a euphoric mood. In taking this fortress, they suffered 200 men killed and wounded, while the Afghans lost nearly 500 men. 1,600 Afghans were taken prisoner with an unknown number wounded. Ghazni was well-supplied, which eased the further advance considerably.

Following this, 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 thirty years, Shuja was again enthroned in Kabul.

 


Date: 2015-12-17; view: 560


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