British Massacred in Afghanistan - History

British Massacred in Afghanistan - History

A revolt against the British in Kabul forced them to agree to withdraw from the city and return to India. They did so under a safe conduct agreement. The Afghans instead attacked the British and massacred 4,500 soldiers and 12,000 civilians.

2008: British Soldiers in Afganistan Discover British Rifles Lost In 1880 Maiwand Massacre

Imagine slogging through the sands and sun of the Middle East with your fellow military men and women. There are many hidden dangers to come across – and, surprisingly, weapons that you might recognize from your military history books. That’s right even seas and thousands of miles away from your homeland, there’s a chance that you might stumble upon weapons left behind by your ancestors.

This is what occurred a few years ago, in the desert landscape of Afghanistan. British troops stumbled across an unexpected find: their nation’s very own weapons long left abandoned.

128 years after the British troops were defeated at Maiwand in July of 1880, soldiers from the very same nation returned to the site of the conflict to find long-lost weapons.

As members of the British military faced off against Taliban and al-Qa’ida forces in Afghanistan in 2008, they uncovered a surprising and unexpected find from their nation’s own history: the battle weapons used by their ancestors of the Victorian era.

The Original Conflict of the 1800s

In July of 1880, the British Empire was in the midst of the Second Anglo-Afghan War. The latter of a two-part effort on the behalf of British-controlled India to invade Afghanistan, this war stretched from 1878 to 1880 and pitted Sher Ali Khan of Afghanistan’s Barakzai dynasty against the all-powerful British monarchy that ruled India and Pakistan during this era.

According to Mark Hawkins, military arms expert and co-owner of England’s The Lanes Armoury, the battle between the British and the Afghani militaries was not exactly an easy victory for the famed Empire of Western Europe. In fact, when British troops first entered Afghan territory and took to battle, they lost – not a battle here or there, but in surprising numbers.

Every troop sent out to fight never returned, instead perishing on the battlefield. As the Afghanistan military gained ground and killed British troops, they took the weapons left behind by the dead.

Despite, this the British once again tried to dominate the Afghans. The British and the Afghans confronted each other at the battle of Maiwand and to the surprise of the world, the Afghans defeated the army of the most powerful nation on earth.

In the 63 years that Queen Victoria reigned over the nation and its colonies, the battle of Maiwand earned a place among the greatest military embarrassments of the empire throughout its history. Despite its modern and advanced weapons, skilled and trained troops, and a large army of 12,000 soldiers, the British Empire saw itself defeated by a mere 2,500 Afghan men.

The British experienced a series of defeats in Afghanistan. One of these battles, in particular, occurred in the Afghan village of Khig, where British troops armed with Martini-Henry rifles made a final stand against the native soldiers.

After the bloodshed, only two officers and nine soldiers stood alive about 1,000 fellow men lay fallen on the ground. However, according to the Afghan witnesses who saw this battle conclude in its final moments, the British men refused to surrender. Instead, the eleven men still alive charged at the Afghan forces that surrounded them, leaving their safe places of shelter behind to attempt one final stand against the enemy.

The British men left standing charged the Afghan troops so great in number – yet they quickly fell, as the Afghan men fired at them and ensured they were dead before advancing even another foot.

Despite the great defeat experienced by the British Empire in 1879, the British proved themselves victorious at the war’s end – surprisingly, peace treaty arrangements were made between the two nations. England was allowed to retain influence in Afghanistan, as the result of the Treaty of Gandamak, and the British and Indian troops remaining in Afghanistan left the country altogether.

At the end of the years-long conflict between the two international powers, the tribes within Afghanistan were allowed to rule once again their nation independently. The British retreated and allowed the Afghans to rule their country, according to their local customs however, the powerful British Empire retained total control over the nation’s foreign affairs, policy.

In the peace treaty that established this arrangement for decades to come, England was permitted to prevent any other international power from dominating Afghanistan or taking control of this crucial Asian nation by military force. With the Russian Empire hovering nearby, this treaty ensured that England would keep Russia at bay, and prevent the also powerful nation from encroaching on their Indian territories.

Centuries Later, The British Regain Their Loss

The battle, and defeat, that occurred at Maiwand so many years ago was once again brought to the forefront of history when British soldiers stumbled upon ancient Victorian-era weapons – the very guns used in battle by their forefathers and ancestors in 1880.

Although the soldiers who entered Afghanistan in 2008 were not expecting to discover anything more than brutal combat and the perils of modern warfare, what they uncovered had little to do with the battles of today’s armies and conflicts. They also discovered weapons that have become collector’s items ever since they fell out of use in the British military.

According to Peter Smithurst, the senior curator of historic firearms at the Royal Armouries Museum, the weapons with which soldiers of the British Empire fought were quite impressive weapons. Today, the guns used during the battle of Maiwand are considered classics within the circles of weapons collectors and historians.

In fact, the Martini-Henry guns used at the battle of Maiwand were the first purpose-made breech-loading rifle used by the British military – and it quickly became an iconic weapon.

Unfortunately, the first Martini-Henry rifles were first used in a battle in that horrible defeat at Maiwand in the summer of 1880. Once thought lost to history and to the days of war, it came as an incredible surprise when British troops uncovered a buried stash of those Victorian rifles.

As soldiers worked their way through Afghanistan in pursuit of the Taliban and al-Qa’ida, they stumbled upon a hidden stash of Martini-Henry rifles in the country’s Helmand province. Upon their discovery, the soldiers sent the guns back home to England. However, once back in their homeland, the weapons were reclassified as expensive antiques.

In the months after the discovery of the late 1800’s rifles, they saw great popularity with collectors of firearms and war weapons. The Martini-Henry was already an item collector’s clamored over, thanks to its important role in the development and progress of firearms. It saw action – and success – on battlefields during the height of the British Empire’s golden era and was used in many colonial conflicts around the world.

Because of this, it’s no surprise that the uncovered rifles from Afghanistan set off quite a craze among collectors. In fact, two of those rifles were put up for sale in an antique shop located in Sussex each sold for £1,100 (about $1,500 in U.S. currency).

Will More Weapons Be Found?

The discovery of so many hidden weapons, lying beneath the soil of Afghanistan, brings up a new question: are there other valuable and historically significant weapons hiding elsewhere in the country, or in other places around the world? The answer is quite possibly a yes, according to Smithurst.

Ever since British, American, and other nations’ military forces have re-entered Afghanistan, there have been opportunities to uncover rifles and similar antiques from the past. As Smithurst points out, many different countries have fought in or occupied Afghanistan, bringing with them weapons from as recently as the 1990s, or as distant as the 1800s – so who knows what other weapons could be found there.

Perhaps, in the years to come, even more, interesting military finds from other armies will be uncovered, and returned home.


The Great Game (1800–1839) Edit

The 19th century was a period of diplomatic competition between the British and Russian empires for spheres of influence in Asia known as the "Great Game" to the British and the "Tournament of Shadows" to the Russians. [2] With the exception of Emperor Paul who ordered an invasion of India in 1800 (which was cancelled after his assassination in 1801), no Russian tsar ever seriously considered invading India, but for the most of the 19th century, Russia was viewed as "the enemy" in Britain and any Russian advancement into Central Asia was always assumed (in London) to be directed towards the conquest of India, as the American historian David Fromkin observed, "no matter how far-fetched" such an interpretation might be. [3]

In 1832, the First Reform Bill lowering the franchise requirements to vote and hold office in Britain was passed, which the ultra-conservative Emperor Nicholas I of Russia openly disapproved of, setting the stage for an Anglo-Russian "cold war", with many believing that Russian autocracy and British democracy were bound to clash. [4] In 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 British India through Afghanistan. The Russian Empire was slowly extending its domain into Central Asia, and this was seen by the East India Company as a possible threat to their interests in India. In 19th century Russia, there was the ideology of Russia's "special mission in the East", namely Russia had the "duty" to conquer much of Asia, though this was more directed against the nations of Central Asia and the alleged "Yellow Peril" of China than India. [5] The British tended to misunderstand the foreign policy of the Emperor Nicholas I as anti-British and intent upon an expansionary policy in Asia whereas in fact though Nicholas disliked Britain as a liberal democratic state that he considered to be rather "strange", he always believed it was possible to reach an understanding with Britain on spheres of influence in Asia, believing that the essentially conservative nature of British society would retard the advent of liberalism. [6] The main goal of Nicholas's foreign policy was not the conquest of Asia, but rather upholding the status quo in Europe, especially by co-operating with Prussia and Austria, and in isolating France, as Louis Philippe I, the King of the French was a man who Nicholas hated as an "usurper". [7] The duc d'Orleans had once been Nicholas's friend, but when he assumed the throne of France after the revolution of 1830, Nicholas was consumed with hatred for his former friend who, as he saw it, had gone over to what he perceived as the dark side of liberalism. [8]

The Company sent an envoy to Kabul to form an alliance with Afghanistan's emir, Dost Mohammad Khan, against Russia. [9] [10] Dost Mohammad had recently lost Afghanistan's second capital of Peshawar to the Sikh Empire and was willing to form an alliance with Britain if they gave support to retake it, but the British were unwilling. Instead, the British feared the French-trained Dal Khalsa, and they considered the Sikh army to be a far more formidable threat than the Afghans who did not have an army at all, instead having only a tribal levy where under the banner of jihad tribesmen would come out to fight for the emir. [11] The Dal Khalsa was an enormous force that had been trained by French officers, was equipped with modern weapons and was widely considered to be one of the most powerful armies on the entire Indian subcontinent. For this reason, Lord Auckland preferred an alliance with the Punjab over an alliance with Afghanistan, which had nothing equivalent to the Dal Khalsa. [11] The British could have had an alliance with the Punjab or Afghanistan, but not both at the same time. [11] When Governor-General of India Lord Auckland heard about the arrival of Russian envoy Count Jan Prosper Witkiewicz (better known by the Russian version of his name, Yan Vitkevich) in Kabul and the possibility that Dost Mohammad might turn to Russia for support, his political advisers exaggerated the threat. [12] Burnes described Witkiewicz: "He was a gentlemanly and agreeable man, of about thirty years of age, spoke French, Turkish and Persian fluently, and wore the uniform of an officer of the Cossacks". [13] The presence of Witkiewicz had thrown Burnes into a state of despair, leading one contemporary to note that he "abandoned himself to despair, bound his head with wet towels and handkerchiefs and took to the smelling bottle". [13] Dost Mohammad had in fact invited Count Witkiewicz to Kabul as a way to frighten the British into making an alliance with him against his archenemy Ranjit Singh, the Maharaja of the Punjab, not because he really wanted an alliance with Russia. The British had the power to compel Singh to return the former Afghan territories he had conquered whereas the Russians did not, which explains why Dost Mohammad Khan wanted an alliance with the British.

Alexander Burnes, the Scotsman who served as the East India Company's chief political officer in Afghanistan wrote home after having dinner with Count Witkiewicz and Dost Mohammad in late December 1837: "We are in a mess home. The emperor of Russia has sent an envoy to Kabul to offer. money [to the Afghans] to fight Rajeet Singh. I could not believe my own eyes or ears." [11] On 20 January 1838, Lord Auckland sent an ultimatum to Dost Mohammad telling him: "You must desist from all correspondence with Russia. You must never receive agents from them, or have aught to do with them without our sanction you must dismiss Captain Viktevitch [Witkiewicz] with courtesy you must surrender all claims to Peshawar". [14] Burnes himself had complained that Lord Auckland's letter was "so dictatorial and supercilious as to indicate the writer's intention that it should give offense", and tried to avoid delivering it for long as possible. [15] Dost Mohammad was indeed offended by the letter, but in order to avoid a war, he had his special military advisor, the American adventurer Josiah Harlan engage in talks with Burnes to see if some compromise could be arranged. [16] Burnes in fact had no power to negotiate anything, and Harlan complained that Burnes was just stalling, which led to Dost Mohammad expelling the British diplomatic mission on 26 April 1838. [16]

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. [2] Herat is a city that had historically belonged to Persia that the Qajar shahs had long desired to take back. It is located in a plain so fertile that is known as the "Granary of Central Asia"—whoever controls Herat and the surrounding countryside also controls the largest source of grain in all of Central Asia. [17] Russia, wanting to increase its presence in 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 Dost Mohammad with Shuja Shah Durrani, who had once ruled Afghanistan and who was willing to ally himself with anyone who might restore him to the Afghan throne. At one point, Shuja had hired an American adventurer named Josiah Harlan to overthrow Dost Mohammad Khan, despite the fact Harlan's military experience comprised only working as a surgeon with the East India Company's troops in First Burma War. [18] Shuja Shah had been deposed in 1809 and been living in exile in British India since 1818, collecting a pension from the East India Company because they believed that he might be useful one day. [11] The British denied that they were invading Afghanistan, claiming they were merely supporting its "legitimate" Shuja government "against foreign interference and factious opposition". Shuja Shah was barely remembered by most of his former subjects by 1838, and those that did remember viewed him as a cruel, tyrannical ruler who, as the British were soon to learn, had almost no popular support in Afghanistan. [19]

On 1 October 1838, Lord Auckland issued the Simla Declaration, attacking Dost Mohammed Khan for making "an unprovoked attack" on the empire of "our ancient ally, Maharaja Ranjeet Singh". Auckland went on to declare that Suja Shah was "popular throughout Afghanistan" and would enter his former realm "surrounded by his own troops and [. ] supported against foreign interference and factious opposition by the British Army". [19] As the Persians had broken off the siege of Herat and the Emperor Nicholas I of Russia had ordered Count Vitkevich home (he would commit suicide upon reaching St. Petersburg), the reasons for attempting to put Shuja Shah back on the Afghan throne had vanished. [2] The British historian Sir John William Kaye wrote that the failure of the Persians to take Herat "cut from under the feet of Lord Auckland all ground of justification and rendered the expedition across the Indus at once a folly and a crime". [19] Still, at this point Auckland was committed to putting Afghanistan into the British sphere of influence, and nothing would stop him from going ahead with the invasion. [19]

On 25 November 1838, the two most powerful armies on the Indian subcontinent assembled in a grand review at Ferozepore as Ranjit Singh, the Maharajah of the Punjab brought out the Dal Khalsa to march alongside the sepoy troops of the East India Company and the British troops in India. Lord Auckland himself was present, amid much colorful pageantry and music as men dressed in brightly colored uniforms together with horses and elephants marched in an impressive demonstration of military might. [ This quote needs a citation ] [20] Lord Auckland declared that the "Grand Army of the Indus" would now start the march on Kabul to depose Dost Mohammed and put Shuja Shah back on the Afghan throne, ostensibly because the latter was the rightful emir, but in reality to place Afghanistan into the British sphere of influence. [2] The Duke of Wellington speaking in the House of Lords condemned the invasion, saying that the real difficulties would only begin after the invasion's success. He predicted that the Anglo-Indian force would rout the Afghan tribal levy, but then find themselves struggling to hold on due to the terrain of the Hindu Kush mountains and the fact that Afghanistan had no modern roads. He called the entire operation "stupid", given that Afghanistan was a land of "rocks, sands, deserts, ice and snow". [19]

First Anglo-Afghan War (1839–1842) Edit

The First Anglo-Afghan War (Pashto: د برتانیه افغانستان جنګ ‎, also known by the British as the Disaster in Afghanistan) [21] was fought between the British East India Company and the Emirate of Afghanistan from 1839 to 1842. Initially, the British successfully intervened in a succession dispute between emir Dost Mohammad (Barakzai) and former emir Shah Shujah (Durrani), whom they installed upon conquering Kabul in August 1839. The main British Indian and Sikh force occupying Kabul along with their camp followers, having endured harsh winters as well, was almost completely annihilated while retreating in January 1842. The British then sent an Army of Retribution to Kabul to avenge their defeat, and having demolished parts of the capital and recovered prisoners they left Afghanistan altogether by the end of the year. Dost Mohamed returned from exile in India to resume his rule.

Treaty of Peshawar and buildup to the second war (1839–1878) Edit

After months of chaos in Kabul, Mohammad Akbar Khan secured local control and in April 1843 his father Dost Mohammad, who had been released by the British, returned to the throne in Afghanistan. In the following decade, Dost Mohammad concentrated his efforts on reconquering Mazari Sharif, Konduz, Badakhshan, and Kandahar. Mohammad Akbar Khan died in 1845. During the Second Anglo-Sikh War (1848–1849), Dost Mohammad's last effort to take Peshawar failed.

By 1854, the British wanted to resume relations with Dost Mohammad, whom they had essentially ignored in the intervening twelve years. The 1855 Treaty of Peshawar reopened diplomatic relations, proclaimed respect for each side's territorial integrity, and pledged both sides as friends of each other's friends and enemies of each other's enemies.

In 1857 an addendum to the 1855 treaty permitted a British military mission to become a presence in Kandahar (but not Kabul) during a conflict with the Persians, who had attacked Herat in 1856. During the Indian Rebellion of 1857, some British officials suggested restoring Peshawar to Dost Mohammad, in return for his support against the rebellious sepoys of the Bengal Army, but this view was rejected by British political officers on the North West frontier, who believed that Dost Mohammad would see this as a sign of weakness and turn against the British. [22]

In 1863 Dost Mohammad retook Herat with British acquiescence. A few months later, he died. Sher Ali Khan, his third son, and proclaimed successor, failed to recapture Kabul from his older brother, Mohammad Afzal (whose troops were led by his son, Abdur Rahman) until 1868, after which Abdur Rahman retreated across the Amu Darya and bided his time.

In the years immediately following the First Anglo-Afghan War, and especially after the Indian rebellion of 1857 against the British in India, Liberal Party governments in London took a political view of Afghanistan as a buffer state. By the time Sher Ali had established control in Kabul in 1868, he found the British ready to support his regime with arms and funds, but nothing more. Over the next ten years, relations between the Afghan ruler and Britain deteriorated steadily. The Afghan ruler was worried about the southward encroachment of Russia, which by 1873 had taken over the lands of the khan, or ruler, of Khiva. Sher Ali sent an envoy seeking British advice and support. The previous year the British had signed an agreement with the Russians in which the latter agreed to respect the northern boundaries of Afghanistan and to view the territories of the Afghan emir as outside their sphere of influence. The British, however, refused to give any assurances to the disappointed Sher Ali.

Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878–1880) Edit

The Second Anglo-Afghan War (Pashto: د افغان-انګرېز دويمه جګړه ‎) was a military conflict fought between the British Raj and the Emirate of Afghanistan from 1878 to 1880, when the latter was ruled by Sher Ali Khan of the Barakzai dynasty, the son of former emir Dost Mohammad Khan. The war was part of the Great Game between the British and Russian empires.

After tension between Russia and Britain in Europe ended with the June 1878 Congress of Berlin, Russia turned its attention to Central Asia. That same summer, Russia sent an uninvited diplomatic mission to Kabul. Sher Ali Khan, the emir of Afghanistan, tried unsuccessfully to keep them out. Russian envoys arrived in Kabul on 22 July 1878, and on 14 August, the British demanded that Sher Ali accept a British mission too. [23]

The emir not only refused to receive a British mission under Neville Bowles Chamberlain, but threatened to stop it if it were dispatched. Lord Lytton, the viceroy of India, ordered a diplomatic mission to set out for Kabul in September 1878 but the mission was turned back as it approached the eastern entrance of the Khyber Pass, triggering the Second Anglo-Afghan War. [23]

The war was split into two campaigns - the first began in November 1878 with the British invasion of Afghanistan. The British were quickly victorious and forced the emir, Sher Ali Khan, to flee. Ali's successor Mohammad Yaqub Khan immediately sued for peace and the Treaty of Gandamak was then signed on 26 May 1879. The British sent an envoy and mission led by Sir Louis Cavagnari to Kabul, but on 3 September this mission was massacred and the conflict was reignited by Ayub Khan which led to the abdication of Yaqub. [24]

The second campaign ended in September 1880 when the British decisively defeated Ayub Khan outside Kandahar. A new emir selected by the British, Abdur Rahman Khan, ratified and confirmed the Gandamak treaty once more. When the British and Indian soldiers had withdrawn, the Afghans agreed to let the British attain all of their geopolitical objectives, as well as create a buffer between the British Raj and the Russian Empire. [25]

40 years of good relations (1880–1919) Edit

The end of the Second Afghan War in 1880 marked the beginning of almost 40 years of good relations between Britain and Afghanistan under the leadership of Abdur Rahman Khan and Habibullah Khan, during which time the British attempted to manage Afghan foreign policy through the payment of a large subsidy. [26] While ostensibly the country remained independent, under the Treaty of Gandumak (1879) it accepted that in external matters it would ". have no windows looking on the outside world, except towards India". [26]

The death in 1901 of emir Abdur Rahman Khan led indirectly to the war that began 18 years later. His successor, Habibullah, was a pragmatic leader who sided with Britain or Russia, depending on Afghan interests. [27] [28] Despite considerable resentment over not being consulted over the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907 (Convention of St. Petersburg), Afghanistan remained neutral during the First World War (1914–1918), resisting considerable pressure from the Ottoman Empire when it entered the conflict on the side of Imperial Germany and the sultan (as titular leader of Islam) called for a holy war against the Allies. [29]

Despite remaining neutral in the conflict, Habibullah did in fact accept a Turkish-German mission in Kabul and military assistance from the Central Powers as he attempted to play both sides of the conflict for the best deal. [28] [30] Through continual prevarication, he resisted numerous requests for assistance from the Central Powers, but failed to keep in check troublesome tribal leaders, intent on undermining British rule in India, as Turkish agents attempted to foment trouble along the frontier. [29] The departure of a large part of the British Indian Army to fight overseas and news of British defeats at the hands of the Turks aided Turkish agents in efforts at sedition, and in 1915 there was unrest amongst the Mohmands and then the Mahsuds. Not withstanding these outbreaks, the frontier generally remained settled at a time when Britain could ill afford trouble. [29]

A Turco-German mission left Kabul in 1916. By that time, however, it had successfully convinced Habibullah that Afghanistan was an independent nation and that it should be beholden to no one. With the end of the First World War, Habibullah sought to obtain reward from the British government for his assistance during the war. Looking for British recognition of Afghanistan's independence in foreign affairs, he demanded a seat at the Versailles Peace Conference in 1919. This request was denied by the Viceroy, Frederic Thesiger, 1st Viscount Chelmsford, on the grounds that attendance at the conference was confined to the belligerents. Further negotiations were scheduled, but before they could begin Habibullah was assassinated on 19 February 1919. [27] [29] [31]

This resulted in a power struggle, as Habibullah's brother Nasrullah Khan proclaimed himself as Habibullah's successor, while Amanullah, Habibullah's third son, had also proclaimed himself emir. The Afghan army suspected Amanullah's complicity in the death of his father. Needing a way of cementing his power, upon seizing the throne in April 1919 Amanullah posed as a man of democratic ideals, promising reforms in the system of government. He stated that there should be no forced labour, tyranny or oppression, and that Afghanistan should be free and independent and no longer bound by the Treaty of Gandamak. [26]

Amanullah had his uncle Nasrullah arrested for Habibullah's murder and had him sentenced to life imprisonment. Nasrullah had been the leader of a more conservative element in Afghanistan and his treatment rendered Amanullah's position as emir somewhat tenuous. By April 1919 he realised that if he could not find a way to placate the conservatives, he would be unlikely to maintain his hold on power. Looking for a diversion from the internal strife in the Afghan court and sensing advantage in the rising civil unrest in India following the Amritsar massacre, [32] [Note 1] Amanullah decided to invade British India. [33] [34]

Third Anglo-Afghan War (1919) Edit

The Third Anglo-Afghan War (Pashto: دریم انګلو افغان جنګ ‎), also known as the Third Afghan War, the British-Afghan war of 1919 [35] and in Afghanistan as the War of Independence, [35] began on 6 May 1919 when the Emirate of Afghanistan invaded British India and ended with an armistice on 8 August 1919. [36] [37] [38] [39] [40] The war resulted in the Afghans winning back control of foreign affairs from Britain, and the British recognizing Afghanistan as an independent nation. [41] According to British author Michael Barthorp, it was also a minor strategic victory for the British because the Durand Line was reaffirmed as the border between Afghanistan and the British Raj, [42] and the Afghans agreed not to foment trouble on the British side.

Alleged British involvement in the Khost rebellion (1924) Edit

The Khost rebellion, [43] also known as the 1924 Mangal uprising [44] , the Khost revolt [45] or the Mangal Revolt [46] was an uprising against the Westernization and modernizing reforms of Afghanistan’s king, Amanullah Khan. The uprising was launched in Southern Province, Afghanistan, and lasted from March 1924 to January 1925. It was fought by the Mangal Pashtun tribe, later joined by the Sulaiman Khel, Ali Khel, Jaji, Jadran and Ahmadzai tribes. After causing the death of over 14,000 Afghans, the revolt was finally quelled in January 1925.

During the rebellion, The Afghan government portrayed rebel leaders as traitors seeking to serve British interests, and that the campaigns against the rebels were undertaken in the defense of Afghanistan against British influence. In British Raj however, it was generally suspected that the Soviet Union was responsible for providing financial and military aid to the rebels, while in the Soviet Union, the blame was put on Britain. Senzil Nawid writes that despite claims of British involvement by Afghan historians and the contemporary Afghan press, "neither the press reports nor Afghan historians have provided corroborating evidence for this theory". [47] The British Library website claims that Britain supported the Afghan government. [48]

British role in the Afghan Civil War (1929) Edit

The Afghan Civil War was fought from 14 November 1928 to 13 October 1929. Rebelling, and subsequently governing Saqqawist forces under Habibullāh Kalakāni fought against various opposing tribes and rival monarchs in the Kingdom of Afghanistan, among whom Mohammed Nādir Khān eventually achieved a preponderant role. Despite early successes, such as the capture of Kabul and defeat of Amanullah Khan on 17 January 1929 or the capture of Kandahar on 3 June, the Saqqawists were eventually deposed by anti-Saqqawist forces led by Nadir on 13 October 1929, leading to Nadir's ascension as King of Afghanistan, who ruled until his assassination on 3 November 1933.

According to a later British ambassador in Afghanistan, William Kerr Fraser-Tytler, the British empire, though officially neutral, was very concerned about the situation in Afghanistan and they "made up a set of rules to govern the situation. It was unneutral to refuse an Afghan entry into Afghanistan, but once he was in he became a contestant, and it would be unneutral to allow him to recross the border, seeking a brief asylum before plunging again into the fray. And so in a mixture of the rules of cricket and football it was ordained that a player might go on the field once, and play for the crown. But if he was forced into touch, and recrossed the line, whether voluntarily or not, he was 'out' and the referee would not let him back into the game." [49]

Many commentators in Afghanistan and elsewhere hold the belief that Britain played a part in the fall of Amanullah in January 1929, and this is supported by Soviet Historiography. [50] According to Encyclopædia Iranica, "While it can not be dismissed out of hand, the fact remains that no evidence to support it can be found in the copious British Indian archives pertaining to this period. There can be no doubt, however, that behind the stance of official neutrality which the British maintained throughout the crisis of 1929 lay an unwillingness to help Amān-Allāh to reconquer his throne and a benevolence toward the moves of Nāder Khan. While the Soviet authorities favored Amān-Allāh (though reluctantly) and aided a foray on his behalf by Ḡolām Nabī Čarḵī in the Balḵ region, the British authorities allowed Nāder Khan to reenter Afghanistan through India and to obtain a decisive addition of strength through his recruitment of thousands of armed Wazīr and Masʿūd frontier tribesmen. Also helpful was their decision to lift a restriction order, imposing residence at a fixed address in India, on Fażl ʿOmar Mojaddedī, who was to play an apparently decisive role in persuading the Naqšbandī mollās of Afghanistan to change sides and later was to become Nāder Shah’s first minister of justice. In short, while all the evidence indicates that Bačča-ye Saqqā (Kalakani)’s rise was due solely to the internal disintegration of King Amān-Allāh’s régime, there can be no doubt that British policy, tacit rather than explicit, helped to bring about Bačča-ye Saqqā’s fall". [50]

British role in the Afghan tribal revolts of 1944–1947 Edit

Britain cooperated with the Afghan government in suppressing the tribal revolts of 1944–1947, via blockade, weapons sales and aerial bombardment. [ citation needed ]

British role in the Afghanistan conflict (1978–present) Edit

The United Kingdom did not contribute nor actively oppose the communist-led Saur Revolution. It opposed the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and had no involvement in the series of civil wars that followed Soviet withdrawal in 1989. [51]

In 2001–2014, British combat forces served with NATO in Afghanistan. Their main base was Camp Bastion, in the Helmand Province in the south. [52] All but 180 trainers were scheduled to leave in late 2014. [53]

The Embassy of Afghanistan in London is the diplomatic mission of Afghanistan in the United Kingdom. [54] The building now used for the embassy was constructed by Charles James Freake in the late 1850s. [55]

Earlier residents include the industrialist Charles Wright, chairman of Baldwins, [56] and George Whiteley, 1st Baron Marchamley. [57]

British Massacred in Afghanistan - History

This Day In History: January 13, 1842

On this day in history, 1842, Dr. William Brydon, who had part of his skull sheared off at the time, rode an exhausted horse into the British garrison at Jalalabad, Afghanistan. When asked where the rest of the army was, he replied “I am the army”. In fact, he wasn’t actually the sole survivor, as he thought, but was pretty close to it. The few other survivors tended to be certain high ranking officers and some of their wives who were captured and held prisoner.

The 4,500 troops (700 British and 3,800 Indian) were commanded by Major-General William George Keith Elphinstone. They were accompanied by about 12,000 camp followers, made up of various craftsmen servants barbers blacksmiths etc., along with many wives and children of soldiers and the other camp followers. Along with leading this small army, Elphinstone was also noted for being one of the commanders at the Battle of Waterloo. This is where his positive accolades end though as General Elphinstone was generally considered a poor commander and was even called “the most incompetent soldier who ever became general” by one of his fellow Generals (William Nott).

Initially, things went very well for Elphinstone and his troops stationed in Kabul, Afghanistan. At first, they numbered 20,000 with another 38,000 in a civilian camp. The lifestyle in Kabul for them was very luxurious and peaceful after they initially took over, despite the justified unrest among the Afghan people towards their relatively recent British conquerors. This peaceful lifestyle was purchased at a high price by the British government in India, who paid subsidies to surrounding tribes to keep them placated. The lifestyle was so peaceful that most of the troops were ordered back to India, leaving just 4,500 in Kabul with about 12,000 civilians in tow. Unfortunately for the soldiers, though, it was eventually decided that the cost of the subsidies and maintaining the small garrison in Kabul was too great, so the subsidies stopped.

Shortly thereafter, a group of Afghans murdered one of the chief British political officers in Kabul, Alexander Burnes. Rather than take any action to prevent further uprising, General Elphinstone didn’t respond at all to the murder. Soon, a series of small skirmishes took place, at which point Elphinstone realized their peril and called for reinforcements from Kandahar. Unfortunately, no reinforcements were able to reach him because of heavy snow in the passes.

To get around the issue, another high ranking British official decided to try to negotiate safe passage to the garrison at Jalalabad for the soldiers and 12,000 camp followers. The Afghan rebels, led by Akbar Khan, initially seemed open to such a treaty and invited the British to a meeting… where they subsequently slaughtered the British delegation directly after the British dismounted their horses. Once again, rather than respond in any way to this event, General Elphinstone chose to do more or less nothing initially. He followed this move by the genius stroke of making an agreement with the rebels which included stipulations that the British soldiers would hand over much of their gunpowder, muskets, and heavy artillery before leaving. In return for giving up much of their ability to defend themselves to the rebel troops who would then subsequently be well armed, they were to be granted safe passage to the garrison at Jalalabad some 90 miles away.

Naturally, the second the main portion of Elphinstone’s army and camp followers left Kabul, they were fired on from the ramparts of the city, with their rear flank taking heavy casualties. Further, those sick and wounded who were left to follow along as soon as they could were slaughtered by the Afghans and the former army encampment was set on fire.

Despite being attacked the second the troops were out of the city, rather than quicken the march to the critical pass 10 miles away, to make sure Afghans didn’t get there first and setup fortifications, Elphinstone, rather, ordered a halt after just 6 miles. The next day, they made it the remaining way to the pass, but the Afghans had already secured it, armed of course with the British gunpowder and weaponry General Elphinstone had given them a few days before. By that night, around 2/3 of Elphinstone’s army lay dead, unable to penetrate the pass. Finally, Elphinstone and his second in command voluntarily left their troops and surrendered themselves (the General later died in captivity a few months later), though the surviving troops and followers that weren’t yet captured, continued on. Most of the others who chose to surrender, including women and children, were killed. The few who might fetch a ransom were simply taken back to Kabul and held captive.

One group led by Thomas John Anguetil did manage to soldier on and made it as far as the small village of Gandamack, less than a day’s ride from the garrison at Jalalabad. During their journey from the pass to that village, the group took heavy casualties as they went and only about 20 officers and 45 other soldiers made it to Gandamack. As you might expect from them having made it this far without breaking, these soldiers weren’t quite so willing to surrender, even after they were surrounded and were given the chance so the fight continued. Of those remaining 65 of the once 16,500 strong group, all but seven were killed at Gandamack. Six mounted troops manage to flee the scene after nightfall, with five of them killed before they reached Jalalabad.

In the end, Dr. William Drydon manage to make it, being the first and one of the only ones who managed to do so (a few others managed to make it back, such as a Greek merchant and also a “Mr. Baness”, though Baness died the next day). By Drydon’s account, he and a Lieutenant were abandoned by the other officers, the officers having horses in better condition. The two then continued on alone before finally the Lieutenant chose to stop and hide until nightfall, even though they were just three miles from the garrison. Dr. Drydon thought it was better to keep moving, which he did and arrived at the garrison at around 1 P.M. on January the 13th. The Lieutenant never made it.

Interestingly, Brydon’s life was actually saved by a paper magazine which he had stuffed in his hat to try to keep his head warm (it was extremely cold at the time, with heavy snowfall on the ground). At a certain point in his trek, an Afghan soldier swung a sword at him and it struck the magazine and rather than cleaving his whole head, the sword simply deflected and sheared part of Dr. Brydon’s skull. Still a none -to-pleasant injury, but not nearly as bad as it could have been.

Obviously the British didn’t take kindly to this massacre and the rebels in Kabul soon were the victims of a massacre of their own when a British army lead by a competent General this time, William Nott, marched into Kabul shortly thereafter. All total around 50 hostages were rescued after the British army re-took Kabul, nearly all that was left of the 16,500 people that had attempted to flee that city.

Video evidence of ‘massacre’ by UK special forces in Afghanistan mysteriously VANISHES – report

Saifullah Yar was just 19 when his family were shot dead in an SAS raid on their Afghan village in 2011. When British military investigators flew to Kabul in 2017 to investigate the raid, he told them he was handcuffed and led away from his father, brother and two male cousins. He heard two sustained bursts of gunfire, and when the Brits departed, his relatives were dead, their bodies riddled with bullets.

Video footage of the raid was apparently captured by US air support overhead, but according to a new Sunday Times report, American authorities mysteriously lost the footage, and were unable to provide it to a British court, where Saifullah has brought a judicial review into the fatal raid.

The mysterious disappearance isn&rsquot the first time that key evidence from the raid has gone missing, or been intentionally hidden. The Royal MIlitary Police (RMP) investigators&rsquo 2017 visit to Kabul was one of their last tasks in a three-and-a-half year probe into allegations of war crimes against the SAS unit, during which they found that the British operators doctored mission reports to implicate Afghan special forces in similar killings, dozens of which took place between 2011 and 2013.

The investigators interviewed 42 soldiers who said they were unable to remember the mission. Court documents reported on by the Times stated that a judge termed this a case of &ldquocollective amnesia.&rdquo The weapons used in the raid on Saifullah&rsquos village were destroyed the same year the RMP opened its investigation.

However, evidence against the SAS troops has piled up. Investigators found that British 5.56mm bullets, rather than the 7.62mm rounds used by the Afghan commandos, were used to kill the victims. Additionally, they examined reports that weapons were planted on the bodies of these victims, in order to justify the killings later.

The reports that followed the 2011 raid on Saifullah&rsquos village stated that his family were killed when they reached for weapons as the SAS searched their property. These reports were met with skepticism by senior commanders, who in a chain of emails seen by the British court, described the raid as &ldquothe latest massacre,&rdquo and expressed disbelief at the idea of four overpowered prisoners reaching for hidden grenades and rifles during the raid.

&ldquoAnd finally they shot a guy who was hiding in a bush who had a grenade in his hands. You couldn&rsquot MAKE IT UP!,&rdquo one senior noncommissioned officer wrote.

The British government closed down the investigation in late 2017 without prosecuting a single case. The same year, another wide-ranging investigation into alleged war crimes, the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT), was shut down, also without prosecuting a case.

With the SAS typically exempt from parliamentary oversight, the courts are now Saifullah&rsquos best hope of finding justice. &ldquoOur client is seeking a fresh investigation into the deaths of his loved ones and he wants to find out whether their deaths were part of a pattern of unlawful killings of Afghan civilians,&rdquo his lawyer, Tessa Gregory, told the Sunday Times.

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Why the First Anglo-Afghan War Still Matters

In the West, the war is largely remembered from the British point of view – but Afghans have not forgotten their experience.

On October 1, 1838, George Eden, also known as Lord Auckland, the British governor-general of India, issued the so-called Simla Manifesto, essentially declaring war on Afghanistan. Britain’s raison d’etre for the invasion was safeguarding its Indian empire from threats emanating from Afghanistan and beyond. The British wanted to replace Dost Mohammad Khan, the ruler of Kabul province and its principalities, with a more compliant monarch: Shah Shuja Durrani — a former Afghan monarch and a grandson of the country’s founder, Ahmad Shah Durrani — who had been living in exile in Kashmir and Punjab since 1809.

Since much has been written, in great detail, on the major events and chronology of what would come to be called the First Anglo-Afghan War, this writing will focus on other, rather more ignored, aspects of the war and their far-reaching consequences, which continue to impact Afghans right up to the present time. In many ways, the First Anglo-Afghan War (1838-1842) can be considered a watershed event in Afghanistan’s long history.

In contrast to Britain’s global preeminence at the time, Afghanistan in 1838 was a fractured country, where the central government’s authority had evaporated in the preceding decades of civil war. Dost Mohammad Khan’s authority was confined to Kabul, Ghazni and Jalalabad. In the north, the territories between the Hindu Kush and the Amu Darya were governed autonomously by local rulers. In the west, Herat was ruled by Yar Mohammad Khan Alokozai. In the south, Kandahar was under the collective leadership of Dost Mohammad Khan’s half-brothers. In the east, Peshawar, the Durrani Afghan Empire’s former winter capital, had been under Sikh domination since the 1820s.

With no broad-based central authority present in Afghanistan to rally the Afghan tribes against the invaders, the British didn’t encounter much resistance when entering Afghanistan and installing Shah Shuja on the Kabul throne in August 1839. That initial lack of resistance by the Afghans contributed to British optimism — about subduing Afghanistan — which would be put to test in two years’ time, when Afghans would rise against the British.

Despite the apparent grandeur of the invading British army, from the outset, the British were ill-prepared for their “Afghan War.” The British officials in charge of the Afghan policy in India neither had a good understanding of Afghanistan and its people, nor bothered to educate themselves about it. The British thought that, like India, they could easily conquer Afghanistan, and bring it under their influence. This would turn out to be a miscalculation of epic proportions.

The British invasion of Afghanistan in 1838 was the first time that, after Alexander of Macedon, a Western power had invaded Afghanistan. Over the next two centuries, the invasion would be followed by three more European and Western interventions: a second British invasion in 1878, a Russian invasion in 1979 and an American invasion in 2001. All four invasions of Afghanistan have had four things in common: first, an initial quick military victory for the invader second, that victory turning into a stalemate third, an eventual face-saving withdrawal and fourth, Afghanistan’s becoming an economic liability for the invader.

After two years, in 1841, the Afghans rose against the British to throw the yoke of occupation off. The British initially tried a military solution, which didn’t produce the desired result. Afterward, the British, through a series of conspiracies, tried to divide the Afghans and assassinate their leaders. The latter strategy didn’t bear fruit, either. Finding themselves encircled, vulnerable and demoralized, the British decided to withdraw from Kabul in January 1842. During the course of the British retreat from Kabul, out of an army of 16,500, only a few hundred would survive to return to India.

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There’s a general consensus among historians that the British bagged a strategic defeat in the First Anglo-Afghan War, the first of its kind in Asia in the 19th century. The British, however, would make up for this strategic defeat through manipulation of the facts. Numerous accounts have been written, describing in the minutest detail how the Afghans mercilessly “massacred” the retreating British army, while making little to no mention of the harsh realities of British occupation and the crimes British soldiers committed against Afghans. Thus, the British pen has in some ways done more damage to Afghanistan than the British gun.

From the Afghan perspective, local people didn’t “massacre” members of a British peace mission. Britain had invaded their country, and the British army was at war with the Afghan people. In fact, most of the “assassinated” British soldiers had taken part in active combat in Afghanistan and killed Afghans before their commanders decided to retreat. Most Afghans believe the end that the British army met was justified in light of its own initial unethical and colonial mission.

British criticisms, such as those concerning the Afghan killing of political officers William Macnaghten and Alexander Burnes, don’t withstand objective scrutiny either. By installing Shah Shuja on the throne at the point of the bayonet and conspiring to murder Afghan leaders, Macnaghten had taken a one-way street to the afterlife. Burnes’ case, too, is unpardonable. Although Burnes traveled to Afghanistan in the early 1830s and was about to replace Macnaghten as the highest British political officer in Afghanistan, he didn’t have the slightest regard for Afghan culture and had multiple affairs with women in Kabul.

The destruction of the British army, however, didn’t bring the war to an end. In September 1842, two British armies, one from Kandahar and the other from Jalalabad, converged on a deserted Kabul to avenge British losses during the previous winter and restore their shattered pride. From this point on, the British conduct in its entirety would be straight from the colonial playbook. After destroying much of Kabul city, including its renowned Charchatta Bazaar (one of the largest bazaars in Central Asia at the time), the British proceeded further north to lay waste to Charikar and Istalif, where a large number of Kabul’s citizens had taken refuge.

In Istalif, the British massacred every Afghan man past the age of puberty. The British raped hundreds of Afghan women in Istalif (and thousands during the entire course of war), as Arnold Fletcher recounted in his 1965 history of Afghanistan . It wouldn’t be unfair to conclude that the British used rape as a weapon of war against the Afghans. While the destruction of the British army by Afghans is common knowledge, few people are aware of British atrocities in Kabul, Charikar and Istalif.

Ironically, little connection could be established between the Afghan tribesmen who had annihilated the British army in January and those whom the British later raped and killed. But the truth mattered little to the British. Sensing that spending another winter in Afghanistan could be as costly as the previous one, the two British armies decided to retreat to India via the Khyber Pass in October 1842. Thus the First Anglo-Afghan War came to a tragic end, mostly for the Afghans.

Although the war ended in a major strategic defeat for Britain, it left a major scar on the Afghans. In addition to incurring casualties in the tens of thousands and leading to the destruction of their crops and bazaars, the Afghans would continue to suffer the consequences of the British war for decades. The war gave rise to stereotypes about Afghans as “savage,” “untrustworthy,” “wild” and “cruel.” Even a hundred years after the war, the Americans, influenced by British thinking, were unwilling to open an embassy in Kabul because they thought Afghans hated foreigners, especially non-Muslims.

By invading Afghanistan, the British earned the eternal hostility of the Afghans. The respect and trust that the British had earned in Afghanistan before the war was lost forever. Before the war, numerous Britons had traveled to Afghanistan. For instance, Mountstuart Elphinstone had traveled in 1809 to the court of Shah Shuja in the Durrani Empire’s winter capital Peshawar, where he was warmly received by the Durrani monarch. Charles Masson and Alexander Burnes were other notable Britons who had visited Afghanistan before the war. The practice of the British traveling to Afghanistan would almost cease after the war.

In later decades, as the “great game” intensified between Afghanistan’s two powerful neighbors, Britain and Russia, Afghanistan prevented the entry of Russian subjects into the country as well. Many of the British and Russians, who desired to travel to Afghanistan, were suspected of being spies. As a countermeasure to safeguard their independence, Afghans barred both the British and Russians from entry into Afghanistan. It was natural that Afghans would be especially wary of the British. They had gone to war three times in a span of 80 years, between 1838 and 1919.

While the Afghans continuously distrusted the British, other Europeans such as Germans and Austrians used to live there with almost complete liberty. A century ago, the British agent in Kabul made the following observation about the Germans and Austrians in Kabul: “… they can go about quite freely in the bazaars they are treated far better in Kabul than the British Agent or his staff, who are treated like criminals and every possible petty affront is put upon them.”

Similarly, Shah Shuja’s status as a British puppet has served as a benchmark for future foreign-imposed, puppet rulers in Afghanistan. In the 1980s, the Soviet-imposed puppet Babrak Karmal was popularly known by Afghans as “Shah Shuja the Second.” The U.S.-sponsored Hamid Karzai was similarly viewed as “Shah Shuja the Third.” This was in fact the reason why Karzai, while constantly working in collusion with the U.S. behind closed doors, used to take anti-U.S. positions publicly. Karzai didn’t want to be judged by history as another “Shah Shuja.”

In Afghanistan, to this very day, no foreigners are viewed with as much suspicion as the British. Despite 28 years of combined Soviet and U.S. occupation of Afghanistan, the British continue to top the list as the most distrusted and disliked foreigners. Distrusting the British is not limited to a particular segment of Afghan society either. The sentiment is pervasive. And thus, the Anglo-Afghan wars continue to cast a long shadow over Afghan-British relations.

Arwin Rahi is an independent researcher and writer, and a former adviser to the Parwan governor in Afghanistan.

Attack in Afghanistan Kills 10 From Charity That Clears Land Mines

The government blamed the Taliban for the attack on the British-American charity, the HALO Trust. The militant group denied any responsibility.

KABUL, Afghanistan — At least 10 people were killed and 16 others wounded in an armed attack on staff members of a British-American charity in Afghanistan that has been clearing land mines in the country for decades, officials said on Wednesday.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors announcements by the terrorist organization. The assault occurred late Tuesday at a demining camp in the northeastern province of Baghlan and targeted employees of the charity, the HALO Trust.

Tariq Arian, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said that the victims were all Afghan citizens and that the wounded had been transferred to hospitals.

The HALO Trust, a British charity with an American affiliate registered in Washington, said in a statement on Wednesday that an “unknown armed group” entered the demining camp at 9:50 p.m. on Tuesday and opened fire on about 110 men from local communities who had been working in nearby minefields. “We strongly condemn the attack on our staff, who were carrying out humanitarian work to save lives,” it said.

Jawid Mazlomyar, 30, who has worked with HALO for more than a decade, described the bloody and chaotic scene that unfolded around him in Baghlan. He said that the armed attackers had rounded up those in the demining camp and cut off the power before ransacking the occupants’ belongings and taking their cellphones and money.

“They were screaming and insulting us and saying, ‘Who is your manager? Tell us, otherwise we are killing you,’” Mr. Mazlomyar said.

Then, consistent with previous attacks by the Islamic State in Afghanistan, the attackers asked who among those in the camp were Hazaras, a persecuted, largely Shiite minority in the country. Last month, the Islamic State was accused of attacking a primarily Hazara school in Kabul, the capital, killing more than 80 people, most of them teenage girls.

“We told them that we are Muslim and every day we are praying,” Mr. Mazlomyar said. “They asked again, and we responded that there is no Hazara and we all are Muslims. At that time, they started firing.”

Mr. Mazlomyar added that, in the end, the attackers did not single anyone out.

“They killed everyone,” he said.

Mr. Arian, the spokesman, initially blamed the Taliban for the attack.

Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, denied any involvement and said that the area where the “horrifying” attack had taken place was not under the militant group’s control.

“We condemn attacks on the defenseless & view it as brutality,” he said on Twitter. “We have normal relations with NGOs, our Mujahidin will never carry out such brutal acts.”

In civilian attacks such as Tuesday’s, Afghan government officials often opt to blame the Taliban regardless of the killers’ possible affiliation with other armed groups. The move is strategic: to highlight the government’s continuing struggle against the insurgents as the United States and international forces leave Afghanistan in the coming weeks, and to spotlight the Taliban’s bloody tactics.

Tolo News, a news network in Afghanistan, published footage on Twitter that it said showed people wounded in the attack being taken on stretchers to a public hospital in Pul-e-Khumri, a city about 140 miles north of Kabul, the capital.

Ramiz Alakbarov, the United Nations secretary general’s deputy special representative for Afghanistan, called for an investigation into the attack and described it as “heinous.”

“It is repugnant that an organization that works to clear land mines and other explosives and better the lives of vulnerable people could be targeted,” he said in a statement.

The HALO Trust began working in Afghanistan in 1988. Its field teams clear land mines, dispose of unexploded ordnance found in bombs and bullets, and build facilities to store guns and other weapons safely. The group has programs in 26 countries and territories, including in Iraq, where it began working in 2018.

The HALO program in Afghanistan, which started months before the Soviet Army pulled out of the country in 1989, employs more than 2,600 local staff members and remains the group’s largest operation in the world. HALO says on its website that over the past 30 years, it has worked with the Afghan government to make nearly 80 percent of the country’s recorded minefields and battlefields safe.

Still, the group says, an area of Afghanistan as large as Chicago still needs to be cleared.

Diana, Princess of Wales, called attention to HALO’s work in 1997, when she walked through a live minefield in Angola — once home to one of the most heated Cold War conflicts in Africa — to highlight the danger of mines around the world.

Diana’s youngest son, Prince Harry, retraced her steps in 2019 during a trip through the continent with his wife, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, and their son. HALO said at the time that it had cleared about 100,000 mines in Angola since Diana’s visit.

Baghlan Province is one of the places where the Taliban have been attacking in recent weeks as they have seized control of territory and military outposts in several parts of the country. One attack on a security depot there in late May killed eight territorial army soldiers and wounded 10 others.

The Taliban’s advances coincide with the withdrawal of United States troops and their NATO allies from the country, a process that is expected to end by early to mid-July. Officials in the Biden administration, which is eager to prevent the country’s cities from falling to the Taliban, are debating whether American warplanes should provide air support to Afghan forces.

Washington’s peace envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, finished a four-day visit to Kabul on Tuesday. Mr. Khalilzad is an Afghan-born American diplomat who led negotiations ahead of the Trump administration’s February 2020 peace deal with the Taliban, which laid out the conditions and timeline for the American withdrawal.

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul said in a statement on Wednesday that American leaders met their Afghan counterparts in the city this week and “agreed that maintaining political unity was essential during this period of transition.”

Najim Rahim reported from Kabul, Afghanistan, and Mike Ives from Hong Kong. Fatima Faizi contributed reporting from Kabul, and Thomas Gibbons-Neff from Geneva.

Massacre of British Army in Afghanistan in 1842

In the 1800s, the British controlled India, and the Russians, to the north, had their own designs on southern Asia. Between these two imperial powers sat the rugged land of Afghanistan. In time the periodic collisions of empire in that unforgiving landscape would become known as "The Great Game."

One of the earliest eruptions in this epic struggle was the first Anglo-Afghan War, which had its beginning in the late 1830s. To protect its holdings in India, the British had allied themselves with an Afghan ruler, Dost Mohammed.

He had united warring Afghan factions after seizing power in 1818, and seemed to be serving a useful purpose to the British. But in 1837, it became apparent that Dost Mohammed was beginning a flirtation with the Russians.

Britain Invaded Afghanistan in the Late 1830s
The British resolved to invade Afghanistan, and the Army of the Indus, a formidable force of more than 20,000 British and Indian troops, set off from India for Afghanistan in late 1838. After difficult travel through the mountain passes, the British reached Kabul in April 1839. They marched unopposed into the Afghan capital city.

Dost Mohammed was toppled as the Afghan leader, and the British installed Shah Shuja, who had been driven from power decades earlier. The original plan was to withdraw all the British troops, but Shah Shuja's hold on power was shaky, so two brigades of British troops had to remain in Kabul.

Along with the British Army were two major figures assigned to essentially guide the government of Shah Shuja, Sir William McNaghten and Sir Alexander Burnes. The men were two well-known and very experienced political officers. Burnes had lived in Kabul previously, and had written a book about his time there.

The British forces staying in Kabul could have moved into an ancient fortress overlooking the city, but Shah Shuja believed that would make it look like the British were in control. Instead, the British built a new cantonment, or base, that would prove very difficult to defend. Sir Alexander Burnes, feeling quite confident, lived outside the cantonment, in a house in Kabul.

The Afghans Revolted Against the British in Late 1841
The Afghan population deeply resented the British troops. Tensions slowly escalated, and despite warnings from friendly Afghans that an uprising was inevitable, the British were unprepared in November 1841 when an insurrection broke out in Kabul.

A mob encircled the house of Sir Alexander Burnes. The British diplomat tried to offer the crowd money to disburse, to no effect. The lightly defended residence was overrun. Burnes and his brother were both brutally murdered.

The British troops in the city were greatly outnumbered and unable to defend themselves properly, as the cantonment was encircled.

A truce was arranged in late November, and it seems the Afghans simply wanted the British to leave the country. But tensions escalated when the son of Dost Mohammed, Muhammad Akbar Khan, appeared in Kabul, and took a harder line.

The British Were Forced to Flee Afghanistan
Sir William McNaghten, who had been trying to negotiate a way out of the city, was murdered on December 23, 1841, reportedly by Muhammad Akbar Khan himself. The British, their situation hopeless, somehow managed to negotiate a treaty to leave Afghanistan.

On January 6, 1842, the British began their withdrawal from Kabul. Leaving the city were 4,500 British troops and 12,000 civilians who had followed the British Army to Kabul. The plan was to march to Jalalabad, about 90 miles away.

The retreat in the brutally cold weather took an immediate toll, and many died from exposure in the first days. And despite the treaty, the British column came under attack when it reached a mountain pass, the Khurd Kabul. The retreat became a massacre.

Slaughter in the Mountain Passes of Afghanistan
A magazine based in Boston, the North American Review, published a remarkably extensive and timely account titled "The English in Afghanistan" six months later, in July 1842. It contained this vivid description (some antiquated spellings have been left intact):

On the 6th of January, 1842, the Caboul forces commenced their retreat through the dismal pass, destined to be their grave. On the third day they were attacked by the mountaineers from all points, and a fearful slaughter ensued"¦
The troops kept on, and awful scenes ensued. Without food, mangled and cut to pieces, each one caring only for himself, all subordination had fled and the soldiers of the forty-fourth English regiment are reported to have knocked down their officers with the butts of their muskets.

On the 13th of January, just seven days after the retreat commenced, one man, bloody and torn, mounted on a miserable pony, and pursued by horsemen, was seen riding furiously across the plains to Jellalabad. That was Dr. Brydon, the sole person to tell the tale of the passage of Khourd Caboul.

More than 16,000 people had set out on the retreat from Kabul, and in the end only one man, Dr. William Brydon, a British Army surgeon, had made it alive to Jalalabad.

The garrison there lit signal fires and sounded bugles to guide other British survivors to safety, but after several days they realized that Brydon would be the only one. It was believed the Afghans let him live so he could tell the grisly story.

The Retreat from Kabul Was a Severe Blow to British Pride
The loss of so many troops to mountain tribesmen was, of course, a bitter humiliation for the British. With Kabul lost, a campaign was mounted to evacuate the rest of the British troops from garrisons in Afghanistan, and the British then withdrew from the country entirely.

And while popular legend held that Dr. Brydon was the only survivor from the horrific retreat from Kabul, some British troops and their wives had been taken hostage by Afghans and were later rescued and released. And a few other survivors turned up over the years.

One account, in a history of Afghanistan by former British diplomat Sir Martin Ewans, contends that in the 1920s two elderly women in Kabul were introduced to British diplomats. Astoundingly, they had been on the retreat as babies. Their British parents had apparently been killed, but they had been rescued and brought up by Afghan families.

14 September 2001: The lesson of history – Afghanistan always beats its invaders

O n the heights of the Kabul Gorge, they still find ancient belt buckles and corroded sword hilts. You can no longer read the insignia of the British regiments of the old East India Company, but their bones – those of all 16,000 of them – still lie somewhere amid the dark earth and scree of the most forbidding mountains in Afghanistan. Like the British who came later, and the Russians who were to arrive more than a century afterwards, General William Elphinstone’s campaign was surrounded with rhetoric and high principles and ended in disaster. George Bush Junior and Nato, please note.

Indeed, if there is one country – calling it a nation would be a misnomer – that the west should avoid militarily, it is the tribal land in which Osama Bin Laden maintains his obscure sanctuary. Just over two decades ago, I found out what it was like to be on an invasion army in that breathlessly beautiful, wild, proud plateau. Arrested by the Russian Parachute Regiment near the Salang Tunnel, I was sent with a Soviet convoy back to Kabul. We were ambushed, and out of the snowdrifts came the Afghans, carrying knives. An air strike and the arrival of Soviet Tadjik troops saved us. But the mighty Red Army had been humbled before men who could not write their own names and whose politics were so remote that a mujahid fighter would later insist to me that London was occupied by Russian troops.

Back in 1839 we British were also worried about the Russians. General Elphinstone lead an East India Company army of 16,500 – along with 38,000 followers – into Afghanistan, anxious to put an end to Dost Mohamed’s flirtation with the Tsar, took Kandahar and entered Kabul on 30 June with the first foreign force to occupy the city in modern times. Dost Mohamed – the British Superpower of the time knew how to deal with recalcitrant natives – was dispatched to exile in India, but the Afghans were not prepared to be placed under British tutelage. To garrison a foreign army in Kabul was folly, as Elphinstone must have realised when, on 1 November 1840, a British official, Alexander Burnes, was hacked to pieces by a mob in the souk and his head impaled on a stake. A 300-strong British unit in the field fled for its life back to Kabul. And when Dost Mohamed’s son turned up, leading an Afghan army of 30,000, Elphinstone was doomed.


He bartered his freedom in return for a safe passage back to the British fort in Jalalabad, close to the Indian frontier. It was one of the coldest winters on record and with few supplies, virtually no food and false promises of safety, he led his army – their columns 10 miles in length – out into the frozen desolation of the Kabul Gorge. The camp followers were left by the wayside contemporary records describe Indian women attached to the British army’s colonial force, stripped naked, starving, raped and knifed by Afghan tribesmen, their corpses left in the snow. Elphinstone had long since given up trying to protect them. Yet each new foray down the chasm of the Kabul Gorge – I was to see the remains of a Russian convoy littered across the same track almost 140 years later – led to further ambushes and massacres.

Elphinstone secured the safety of himself, a few officers and a party of English ladies. The last British guardsmen were cut down on the heights, surrounded by thousands of Afghans, firing to the last round, the company commander dying with the Union flag wrapped around his waist. Days later, the last survivor of the massacres, galloping his exhausted horse Jalalabad was attacked by two Afghan cavalry. Hacking them away from him, he broke his sword, Hollywood-style, on one of the men. But with his horse dying beneath him, he reached the British fort. It was to date the greatest defeat of British arms in history.

Assassination of Sir Alexander Burnes at Kabul, where the British were trying to place a puppet on the throne. The intervention resulted in most of the 16,000 men deployed being killed

The British clung to Afghanistan as if it was a jewel in the crown. Under the Treaty of Gandamak, the Amir Yakub Khan could rule Kabul and a British embassy would be opened in the city. But within months, in 1879, the residency was under siege, its few occupants fighting – once more – to the last man. With the embassy on fire, the handful of Britons inside made repeated forays into the ranks of the Afghans. “When charged,” a later British account would claim, “the Afghan soldiers ran like sheep before a wolf“. But within hours, the British were fighting from the burning roof of the residency, slashed to bits with swords, stripped and their bodies burned. The Consul, born to a French father and an Irish mother, was Major Sir Pierre Louis Napoleon Cavagnari, KCB, CSI. A British journalist with the Kabul Field Force found a few scorched bones in the residency yard they included, no doubt, Sir Pierre’s remains.

Ironically, one of Elphinstone’s successors was visiting the site of the 1842 massacre in 1880 when he heard that his army – this was the Second Afghan War – had been attacked in a remote semi-desert called Maiwand where the 30th Bombay Infantry was fighting off thousands of ghazi warriors who were charging suicidally at British cannons and Egyptian colonial troops. Savage in their assaults, waving green Islamic banners and utterly heedless of their own lives – and the word “suicidal” is not used loosely here – they threw themselves among the British.

We were to conduct a military inquiry into the disaster that followed and now, in the fragile, yellowing pages of the Indian British Army’s Intelligence Branch report we can find chilling evidence of what this meant. Captain Wainwaring was to recall how “the whole of the ground to the left of the 30th Native Infantry, and between it and the Grenadiers, was covered with swarms of ghazis and bannermen. The ghazis were actually in the ranks of the Grenadiers, pulling the men out and hacking them down with their swords. ” A young Afghan woman – all we know is that her name was Malaleh – feared that the tribesmen might withdraw and so tore off her veil, holding it above her head as a flag and charging at the Grenadiers herself. She was shot down by British rifle fire. But the British fled. In all, they lost 1,320 men including 21 officers, along with 1,000 rifles and at least 600 swords.

George W Bush should have heeded the warnings of those that came before him

The Great Game was supposed to be about frontiers – about keeping a British-controlled Afghanistan between the Indian Empire and the Russian border – but it was a history of betrayals. Those we thought were on our side turned out to be against us. Until 1878, we had thought the Amir Sher Ali Khan of Kabul was our friend, ready to fight for the British Empire – just as a man called Osama bin Laden would later fight the Russians on “our” behalf – but he forbade passage to British troops and encouraged the robbery of British merchants.

He had “openly and assiduously endeavoured . to stir up religious hatred against the English”, our declaration of war had announced on 21 November 1878. The Amir’s aiding and abetting of the murder of the British Embassy staff was “a treacherous and cowardly crime, which has brought indelible disgrace upon the Afghan people,” Sir Frederick Roberts announced in 1879 when, yet again, the British had occupied Kabul. The Amir’s followers “should not escape . penalty and . the punishment inflicted should be such as will be felt and remembered . All persons convicted of bearing a part [in the murders] will be dealt with according to their deserts.” It was an ancient, Victorian warning, a ghostly preamble to the words we have been hearing from President Bush – and, indeed, Mr Blair – in the last 48 hours.


The Russians were to endure their 10 years of Calvary exactly a century later, though in truth it was the Afghans who suffered a virtual genocide under the Soviets. Osama bin Laden, who had himself escaped several murder attempts by Russian agents, survived. Perhaps Vladimir Putin who is being asked to subscribe to the west’s new battle for “democracy and liberty” against the forces of darkness might remind Mr Bush just how painful Russia’s military adventure in Afghanistan proved to be. Perhaps we could all go back to the history books before suggesting – and the idea of such an adventure is clearly being dreamed of in Washington – that the Great Game should be taken up once more.

Britain’s Retreat from Kabul 1842

The inhospitable terrain, the unforgiving and unpredictable weather, fractured tribal politics, turbulent relations with the local population and armed civilians: these are just some of the issues that led to Britain’s downfall in Afghanistan.

This refers not to the most recent war in Afghanistan (although you would be forgiven for thinking so), but Britain’s humiliation in Kabul almost 200 years ago. This epic defeat happened during the very first Afghan war and Anglo-invasion of Afghanistan in 1842.

It was a time when the British colonies, and indeed the East India Trading Company, were extremely wary of Russian power-expansion in the East. It was thought that a Russian invasion of Afghanistan would be an inevitable part of this. Such an invasion was of course finally realised more than a century later with the Soviet-Afghan war of 1979-1989.

This period in the 19th century is something historians refer to as the ‘Great Game’, a tug of war between East and West over who would control the region. Although the area remains in contention even to this day, the very first Afghan War was not so much a defeat for the British, as it was a complete humiliation: a military disaster of unprecedented proportions, perhaps only matched by the Fall of Singapore exactly 100 years later.

In January 1842, during the First Anglo-Afghan War, while retreating back to India, the entire British force of around 16,000 troops and civilians was annihilated. Until this point the British military and the private armies of the East India Company had a reputation all over the world of being incredibly powerful and a stalwart of British efficiency and order: a continuation of this success was expected in Afghanistan.

Fearful of increased Russian interest in the area, the British decided to invade Afghanistan and marched unchallenged into Kabul in early 1839 with a force of approximately 16,000 to 20,000 British and Indian troops collectively known as Indus. Yet a mere three years later there was only one known British survivor who staggered into Jalalabad in January 1842, after fleeing the carnage that befell his comrades in Gandamak.

Dost Mohammed

The occupation in Kabul had begun peacefully enough. The British were originally allied with the indigenous ruler Dost Mohammed, who over the preceding decade had succeeded in uniting the fractured Afghan tribes. However, once the British began to fear that Mohammed was in bed with the Russians, he was ousted and replaced with a more useful (to the British anyway) ruler Shah Shuja.

Unfortunately, the Shah’s rule was not as secure as the British would have liked, so they left two brigades of troops and two political aides, Sir William Macnaghten and Sir Alexander Burns, in an attempt to keep the peace. This was however not as simple as it seemed.

Underlying tensions and resentments of the occupying British forces bubbled over into full-on rebellion by the local population in November 1841. Both Burns and Macnaghten were murdered. The British forces that had elected not to remain in the fortified garrison within Kabul but instead in a cantonment outside of the city, were surrounded and completely at the mercy of the Afghan people. By the end of December, the situation had become perilous however the British managed to negotiate an escape to British-controlled India.

With the rebellion in full force it is perhaps surprising that by these negotiations the British were in fact allowed to flee Kabul and head to Jalalabad, around 90 miles away. It may be that they were allowed to leave purely so that later they could become victims of the ambush at Gandamak, however whether this is the case or not is unknown. Exact estimates of how many people left the city differ, but it was somewhere between 2,000 and 5,000 troops, plus civilians, wives, children and camp followers.

Around 16,000 persons eventually evacuated Kabul on January 6th 1842. They were led by the commander-in-chief of the forces at the time, General Elphinstone. Although undoubtedly fleeing for their lives, their retreat was not easy. Many perished from cold, hunger, exposure and exhaustion on the 90-mile march through the perilous Afghan mountains in horrendous winter conditions. As the column retreated they were also harried by Afghan forces who would shoot at people as they marched, most of whom were unable to defend themselves. Those soldiers that were still armed attempted to mount a rear-guard action, but with little success.

What had begun as a hasty retreat quickly became a death march through hell for those fleeing as they were picked off one-by-one, despite the treaty allowing them to retreat from Kabul in the first place. As the Afghan forces increased their attack on the retreating soldiers, the situation finally spiralled into a massacre as the column came to the Khurd Kabul, a narrow pass some 5 miles long. Hemmed in on all sides and essentially trapped, the British were torn to pieces, with over 16,000 lives lost in a matter of days. By January 13th everyone, it seemed, had been killed.

In the initial bloody aftermath of battle, it appeared that only one man had survived the slaughter. His name was Assistant Surgeon William Brydon and somehow, he limped into the safety of Jalalabad on a mortally wounded horse, watched by those British troops who were patiently waiting for their arrival. Asked what had happened to the army, he answered “I am the army”.

The accepted theory was that Brydon had been allowed to live in order to tell the story of what had happened at Gandamak, and to discourage others from challenging the Afghans lest they face the same fate. However, it is now more widely accepted that some hostages were taken and others managed to escape, but these survivors only began to appear well after the battle had finished.

What is undeniable however is the absolute horror that befell those retreating British soldiers and civilians, and what a grisly bloodbath that final last stand must have been. It was also an utter humiliation for the British Empire, who withdrew completely from Afghanistan and whose reputation was severely tarnished.

Watch the video: Afghanistan: the Great Game Part I