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Afghanistan, "Terrorism" and Blowback: A Chronology
by
Janette Rainwater, Ph.D.

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1747   Ahmad Shah Durrani becomes the chief of the Afghan Pashtun tribes. [He freed the Pashtun areas of what is now Afghanistan from Iranian rule, and then went on to acquire territory from the deteriorating empires to the west and east--- the Safavi dynasty in Iran and the Mughals in India. At the height of his conquests in 1762 his empire included all of present-day Pakistan, parts of northern India and the area around Meshed in Iran. The southern boundary was the Arabian Sea and the port of Karachi. Nyrop, Richard F. and Donald M. Seekins, Afghanistan, a country study (1986), pp. 13-19.]

1839-1842    The First Afghan War is one of the first acts in the "Great Game," so named by the British (and romanticized by Rudyard Kipling) to describe the spy games played by the British and Russian intelligence agencies as the spheres of influence of the two empires moved closer and closer to an ultimate clash in Afghanistan. [Ahmad Shah's domain had started disintegrating even before his death in 1772. The British took advantage of the continuing wars of succession to install a puppet government in Kabul with ex-shah Shuya replacing Dost Mohammed (who had proved reluctant to expel the lone Russian agent from Kabul and give up all claims to Peshawar (which the Sikhs now controlled.) Their excuse was that India's welfare required a trustworthy and stable ally on its border. Shuja was unable to gain the support of the other Afghan chiefs who rose up against him and the British. The garrison of 15,000 men was forced to make a humiliating retreat to India from Kabul with Afghan tribesmen picking them off at every pass. Most died, one man survived the march unscathed, and a few were taken prisoner. Meyer, Karl E. and Shareen Blair Brysac, Tournament of Shadows (1999), pp. 82-110; Nyrop, pp. 22-29.]

1878-1881    The Second Anglo-Afghan War starts when the imperious Viceroy of India, Lord Lytton, delivers an ultimatum to Emir Sher Ali to accept a British mission in Kabul. [The proponents of the Forward Policy were in power in Britain with the ascension of Disraeli as Prime Minister. They believed that Afghanistan must be taken over as a buffer state against the encroaching Russian expansion into Central Asia. (The Russians had taken Tashkent in 1865, Samarkand in 1868 and a year later were at the banks of the Amu Darya River, the northern boundary of present-day Afghanistan. British Liberals, on the other hand, felt that the natural boundary of India should be the Indus River.) The British invaded in November, 1878 and quickly occupied half the country. Sher Ali's regent signed the Treaty of Gandamak to prevent British occupation of the remaining provinces. The British agreed to pay annual subsidies, Afghanistan relinquished control of its foreign affairs and accepted the presence of the Residency. The British believed all was well, but in September, 1879 the bewildered Resident refused to pay some 2000 Herati mercenaries who then stormed the Residency, killing all the British. Lord Lytton sent an army to avenge the massacre; hundreds of Afghans were executed on little or no evidence. These reprisals spurred an army of 10,000 tribesmen to march on Kabul. The British were saved by recognizing Abdul Rahman as Emir--- a claimant who ironically had been living in Russia and was sponsored by Russia! Back in Britain, Gladstone won the April, 1880 election by turning it into a sort of plebiscite on Disraeli's imperial wars: "The sanctity of life in the hill villages of Afghanistan, among the winter snows, is as inviolable in the eyes of Almighty God as can be your own." This sentiment didn't appeal to Her Majesty, but middle-class Britons approved. Britain's gains from the war (and the expenditure of £12 million) were the Khyber Pass, the Kurram Valley, and the control of Afghanistan's foreign relations. Meyer and Brysac, pp. 177-201.

1893    Abdul Rahman Khan is forced by the British Indian government to agree to the "Durrand Line" as the boundary between Afghanistan and India. [This placed more than half of the Pashtuns in India, a decision that was protested then and by succeeding generations.]

1907    The "Great Game" ends with the Anglo-Russian Convention. [The former competitors, now united against the rising influence of Germany, divided Iran into two spheres of influence. Russia could occupy the north and Britain the south and east should Iran be threatened by a third party. Both countries pledged not to occupy Iran nor interfere with its internal affairs.]

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This site was last changed November 28, 2001. It was created on March 20, 1997.

© Janette Rainwater 1997-2001

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