Header Ads

Header ADS

History of the struggle of Afghans for independence

Colonial troops from Kabul to Jalalabad 1842,
only one person will reach alive


Today, the world community is watching with concern the events that are unfolding in Afghanistan. The troops that have been on the territory of the country for a long time are leaving it. Here and there, on the news agency feeds, there are reports of the next successes of the Taliban movement banned in Russia in regaining control of the regions, the most important cities and communications. This aroused a high interest of the Russian society in everything related to the history of Afghanistan, including the armed conflict in this country in 1979-1989, in which a limited contingent of Soviet troops took part. However, the most far-sighted understand that the explanation of some of the processes taking place today should be sought in the events of much earlier. This article opens a series of four articles, dedicated to the struggle of the Afghan people for independence. Let's talk about how it all began:

Part 1. Beginning and milestones of a long journey

Afghanistan has a unique geographic location. Throughout history, these lands, located on the routes of trade and cultural exchange between West and East, North and South, were at the forefront of the conquering ambitions of the great powers. Perhaps the first "superpower" in human history was the Persian Empire. In the VI century BC. its founder Cyrus the Great undertook two campaigns to conquer Afghanistan. In the IV century BC. the trip to these lands was made by Alexander the Great. At the turn of the 4th and 3rd centuries BC. a large Indian army invaded the territory of modern Afghanistan. Over the next centuries, the Kushans, Hephtalites, Arabs, Tajiks, Turkmens, Huns, Mongols, Mughals came to these places with predatory goals ...

Until the beginning of the 18th century, the territory of modern Afghanistan was fragmented into many feudal principalities. They fought off external incursions one by one. For this reason, the invaders easily won victories, imposed their own form of statehood, enslaved the population. Often they compared cities to the ground, and completely destroyed the inhabitants. Only the peoples inhabiting the hard-to-reach high-mountainous regions of the Hindu Kush managed to avoid forced assimilation, slavery or destruction.

At the beginning of the 18th century, the scattered khanates were united in the scale of the geographic concept of Afghanistan. The numerous peoples inhabiting it began to identify themselves as Afghans. The country was significantly fragmented, and the feudal lords were in no hurry to share power on the ground. However, in 1747, the principalities of Kandahar, Ghazni, Kabul, Peshawar and Herat first acquired joint statehood in the form of the Durrani state.

The population of the new country was represented mainly by Pashtuns. Actually, the Durrani are one of the two largest and most influential tribal associations, along with the Ghilzai. Despite the fact that the physical and geographical conditions for farming here are extremely unfavorable, the main occupations of the Pashtuns were agriculture and cattle breeding. Due to the lack of food for their herds, the Pashtuns were forced to roam during the year. An important source of income for many of them was transit, largely smuggled, trade. They had well-developed domestic crafts: embroidery of fabrics, making carpets, etc.

But the most profitable and necessary trade of the Pashtuns was the manufacture of cold steel and firearms. It was common in all mountain tribes. Weapons often helped the Pashtuns not only defend their independence, but also survive in difficult times. When crops died or a massive pest of livestock began, the only way to escape starvation was to raid rich settlements on the plains.

All researchers who immersed themselves in Afghan issues noted such a characteristic feature of the Afghan people as love of freedom and rejection of the will of others. The diagram shows some of them:

At the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries, the power of the shahs from the Durrani dynasty was shaken. In the country, disintegration processes began, in which the feudal princes began to be at enmity with each other. It was to this time that the first attempts of the leaders of British colonial policy to interfere in the internal affairs of Afghanistan date back to this time. Watching the collapse of the Durrani state, they prepared for this country the role of another colony, like the one into which India was turned. For this purpose, at the end of 1808, a diplomatic mission headed by M. Elfinston was sent to Afghanistan.

At the same time as the greatest maritime power, the British Empire, spread its colonial ambitions in Central Asia from south to north, the greatest land power, the Russian Empire, expanded in territories from north to south. The empires achieved their goals, each in the zone of its influence, and were divided only by Afghanistan. The confrontation for this territory went down in history as the Great Game.

Here is how the diplomat and historian A.M. Konarovsky: “Russian-Afghan ties, absorbing the specific features of the interests of each of the two states, reflected the peculiarities of the confrontation between the main world players of that era - the British and Russian empires. Afghanistan occupied an important place in their strategic alignments, becoming hostage to the multi-move combinations of the Great Game. "

Afghanistan was vital to both sides, but not strong in itself, but as an obedient buffer between the spheres of influence of the two superpowers. Both were dissatisfied with the strong positions of their opponents in the region, and both considered the possibility of resolving existing contradictions by military means. British historian R. Braithwaite believed: “The British continued to advance north, relying on the same arguments as the Russians ... They also sought to expand trade and ensure the security of their imperial borders. They also concluded that diplomacy alone would not be enough, and they swept away all obstacles on the way north, resorting to violence. "

When the Durrani state collapsed, and a number of independent feudal principalities formed on the territory of modern Afghanistan: Kabul, Kandahar, Peshawar and Herat, the Kabul Emirate became the most powerful. It was headed by Dost Mohammed Khan, who conquered the largest number of territories. The Emir of Kabul strove to create a unified Afghan state instead of scattered constantly warring principalities. He made significant efforts to strengthen the country's Armed Forces, including by attracting foreigners.

The British colonial authorities put forward demands to Dost Mohammed Khan: to open the country's markets for British trade on unfavorable terms, to recognize the independence of Peshawar and Kandahar, and to stop all interaction with the Russian Empire. In order to make the Afghan leader more accommodating, the British, whose colonial possessions surrounded Afghanistan from all sides except the north, staged a blockade of the state. They obstructed the transit of goods through its territory, and began to support the separatist aspirations of local feudal lords, seeking to split the country. In 1834, the British armed and sent a colonial army of 22,000 to Afghanistan under the command of their protege, the former Shah Shuji-ul-Mulk. It was defeated by the Afghans in the battle of Kandahar,

The actions of the British threatened the integrity of Afghanistan, and their demands actually violated the country's sovereignty, and therefore were rejected by the emir. In his refusal to a strong and influential opponent, Dost Mohammed Khan counted on the support of Russia: “I see that England does not value my friendship. I knocked on your door, but you rejected me. True, Russia is too far away, but through Persia it can help me. " In October 1835, the Kabul emir appealed for political support to the Russian Emperor Nicholas I. He asked Russia for help "against the threatening danger to the Kabul owner from the British."

In response to this, a Russian diplomatic mission headed by I.V. Vitkiewicz. The Russian diplomat began to mediate work to reconcile the Afghan feudal principalities among themselves, which caused a negative reaction from Great Britain. This is how the outstanding Soviet orientalist N.A. Khalfin: “The news of Witkiewicz's mission caused a great stir among the British authorities in India and England itself. The British press sounded the alarm about the "Russian threat" allegedly hanging over India, that Dost Mohammed was the sworn enemy of England and that the entire existence of the British Empire was at stake.

In January 1838, the British government demanded that the Kabul emir Dost Mohammed Khan cease relations with Russia, never accept its representatives without the sanction of London, and recognize the independence of Peshawar and Kandahar. The emir's refusal to fulfill these unacceptable requirements for a sovereign state was the reason for the declaration of war.

Why did the success of the British in the colonial wars in India fail them in Afghanistan?

In January 1838, the British government demanded that the Kabul emir Dost Mohammed Khan cease relations with Russia, never accept its representatives without the sanction of London, and recognize the independence of Peshawar and Kandahar. The emir's refusal to fulfill these unacceptable requirements for a sovereign state was the reason for the declaration of war.

British Governor General of India Lord E.L. Elenborough explained the reason for the war: "We fought with Kabul in order to remove the ruler, who managed to unite the tribes, create an army and introduce order." The true reasons for the British attack were the realization of its colonial ambitions in Central Asia and the need to contain the Russian Empire in this region. British plans collided with the irreconcilable position of the Kabul Emir. Afghan historian S.K. Rishtia formulated these reasons as follows: “For the implementation of the far-reaching British plans in the Middle East, which envisaged the establishment of military and political control ... vision, and, being an instrument in the hands of the British representatives, they would have enjoyed only nominal power. It is clear that such rulers as Emir Dost Mohammed Khan and his brothers, who had their own opinions and plans and did not allow interference in the internal affairs of their country, were people who were completely unsuitable for these purposes. In the end, the British decided to openly use military force and overthrow the Mukhamedza dynasty. "

At the end of 1838, a well-armed Anglo-Indian army of 22 thousand people. under the command of General D. Keane entered Afghanistan through the Bolan Pass. The plan was to capture Kandahar, Ghazni and go to Kabul. An auxiliary strike by forces of about 10 thousand people. was applied along the Khyber Pass through Peshawar to Jalalabad and Kabul. The army had about 38 thousand people. carts and camp servants. The actual leader of the expedition was W. McNaught.

The Afghan army, numbering about 15 thousand people, was significantly inferior to the enemy in numbers and weapons. Possessing a significant numerical superiority and technical superiority, the aggressors hoped to easily achieve military success. Indeed, at first they met with little resistance. By the spring of 1839, the British captured Kandahar, Ghazni, Kabul, Jalalabad, points controlling the routes to southern Turkmenistan. In the capital, the coronation of the British protege Shuji ul Mulk was held in a solemn atmosphere. On May 7, 1839, W. McNaught signed an agreement with him, according to which the colonial troops were stationed in the country on a permanent basis, and the foreign policy of Afghanistan became dependent on the British.

However, with the exception of a small group of feudal lords bribed by the British, the population of Afghanistan refused to recognize the puppet king. As the Afghan historian Ahmad Ali Kohzad wrote: "The rule of Shuja should in fact be called the occupation of Afghan land and it was clear to everyone that the country was ruled by the most hated king with the help of foreign troops, and the people were eager to give vent to their indignation."

Having captured Afghan cities, the colonial troops began to plunder and oppress the population. In 1840, the British government sharply reduced the costs of maintaining the occupation forces, forcing them to increase extortions from the population, carried out in the form of taxes or outright robbery. Open indignation was growing among the Afghan tribes, which began to turn into armed struggle. Soon it turned into a large-scale guerrilla war, and the resistance of the Afghans to the interventionists took the form of jihad against the infidels. The city of Ghazni became the stronghold of the rebels. He stubbornly resisted, but due to the technical and numerical superiority of the invaders, he was taken and subjected to ruin, reprisals were arranged over the inhabitants.

Moving across the country, British troops seized fodder and food, and oppressed the population. The success of the partisan movement was hampered by the separatist aspirations of the feudal nobility. This was skillfully used by the British, bribing local elites. Nevertheless, attacks on colonial troops began everywhere. The Afghans smashed the interventionist garrisons, attacked their columns, killed representatives and accomplices, and lured forces loyal to them over to their side. In April 1840, the Pashtuns cut the communications linking Kandahar and Kabul. Some of the interventionists were isolated from the main forces. The Afghans had mountains on their side, in which small guerrilla groups could deliver sensitive blows to the regular army, accustomed to operating on the plain. British historian R. Braithwaite explains:

The British were let down by being spoiled for easy successes in previous colonial wars. Underestimating the Afghans as warriors, they often neglected the elementary requirements of military science, the protection and defense of the camp, etc. By the end of 1840, the liberation movement had gained such a scale that it made it possible to switch from partisan methods to clashes with the occupiers in open combat. So, on November 2, 1840, in the vicinity of Parwan, a battle took place between the militia led by Dost Mohammed Khan and the British brigade, in which the colonialists were defeated. Soon Dost Mohammed Khan was captured, but the liberation movement could no longer be stopped. Afghan historian S.K. Rishtiya explains: "The Afghan people rose to fight the invaders and themselves, without the emir and sardars, fulfilled this task, thus restoring national honor and glory."

Under the influence of successes, more and more tribes were included in the liberation struggle. Mountain passes and roads between Kabul and Jalalabad were soon cut. In the winter of 1840-1841, due to supply difficulties, the interventionists intensified the looting. Instead of salaries, the British colonial units began to be allocated areas for plunder. But under the pressure of the Afghans, they found themselves locked behind the fortress walls of Kabul, Ghazni, Jalalabad, Charikar, deprived of communication with each other. In the fall of 1841, the final rallying of all Afghan forces opposing the intervention took place. In the course of stubborn battles, the Afghans captured the Charikar fortress, destroying its garrison and British governors. The Afghan tribes that held the Khyber Gorge entered into an open struggle with the occupiers. The British found themselves isolated in their fortresses and deprived of contact with the outside world.

On November 2, 1841, an uprising broke out in Kabul, the British governor of Afghanistan A. Burns was killed, the city's garrison capitulated. The invaders were exhausted by the constant exhausting struggle with the rebels and demoralized by a string of defeats. Over the remnants of the troops, trapped in a small number of garrisons, the threat of hunger and complete annihilation loomed. While trying to come to an agreement with the leaders of the liberation movement, W. McNaught was shot dead. This caused panic among the expeditionary force.

British generals began to negotiate with the Afghans about the possibility of safely leaving Afghanistan. On January 6, 1842, having abandoned all the artillery, part of the treasury, the remnants of the defeated Anglo-Indian army in the amount of 15 thousand people. under the leadership of W. Elfinston moved to Jalalabad. On the way, they were subjected to continuous attacks from the population. Three weeks later, only one man made it to Jalalabad, where a large combat-ready garrison of British troops was stationed, Dr. W. Brydon.

British historian A.L. Morton noted: "For the first time a large British military was defeated, and this shook the belief in the invincibility of the white conquerors." This could shake the position of Great Britain in other colonies, because the defeat of the regular troops was inflicted not by the Afghan army, but by the people's militia. In August 1842, the colonial authorities undertook a punitive expedition to Afghanistan under the command of Major General D. Pollock. Its goal was no longer to turn the country into a colony, but to save the remnants of its army, blocked in Jalalabad. The actions of the British in this campaign were distinguished by special cruelty, about which there is a lot of evidence. Having occupied the capital, the colonial troops defeated it, burned the surroundings, destroyed Jalalabad and the Ali Masjid fortress, and killed thousands of civilians.

Naturally, these war crimes were widely reflected in the Soviet and Afghan scientific literature. But they were so egregious that Western historians also describe them in detail. American historian S. Tanner explained their reason in this way: “Now Pollock faced the problem of how to leave in Kabul an eloquent testimony of the power of Great Britain even after the occupation army left ... Ultimately, the explosion of the bazaar marked the beginning of an orgy and plunder. Within twenty-four hours the city turned into an arena of robberies, murders and rapes. "

The well-known Russian orientalist and historian Yu.N. Tikhonov: “For the first time, the British command experienced the terrible power of the“ Afghan trap, ”for which the destruction of any European army was only a matter of time. Realizing what a formidable force the Pashtun tribes represent, Great Britain temporarily refused to seize their territory until all of India was conquered. "

The defeat in the First Anglo-Afghan War forced the British to return to diplomatic and economic methods to achieve their colonial goals. However, soon the Afghans again had to fight the superior forces of the interventionists

What 19th Century British Advice For Modern Americans

In the spring of 1878, Russia sent an embassy to Afghanistan headed by General N.G. Stoletov, which was greeted with great honors. In turn, the British embassy, ​​the Kabul emir Sher Ali Khan, refused to accept. Then, without receiving an invitation, Great Britain sent a mission to Kabul under the leadership of N. Chamberlain. He was tasked with getting the emir to stop contacts with Russia, expel the Russian embassy and agree to the deployment of the British contingent in the country. The ambassador was ordered to arrive in Kabul, despite the obstacles of the Afghan authorities. At the same time, the embassy looked more like a small expeditionary force, as it consisted of a thousand people, including several hundred armed soldiers. At the border, the British refused to let through, and this was perceived as a pretext for a new war.

In November 1878, the Anglo-Indian army of about 35 thousand people. under the command of General S. Brown invaded the territory of Afghanistan in three columns. One column moved from Peshawar through the Khyber Pass to Kabul, the second - from Kohat along the Kuram Valley to Ghazni. The third was heading from Quetta to Kandahar. The British, who compared the frontier tribes of Afghanistan to a “barbed wire fence”, used their tried and tested bribery technique. The independent Pashtun tribes were mostly poor. Therefore, British agents managed to bribe them into neutrality. As wrote about this aspect Yu.N. Tikhonov: "It should be noted that these events in the Pashtun tribal zone once again confirmed that the most dangerous weapon of the British against Afghanistan was gold, not guns."

In response to the British invasion, Sher Ali Khan said: “I do not want to fight them, neither now nor after. But what am I going to do when the British themselves rush in to me? I can’t agree voluntarily that they put a slavery loop around my neck ”. Units of the Afghan army and the militia stubbornly defended the mountain passes, but without the help of the tribes bribed by the invaders, they could not hold back the superior forces of the enemy. With the entrance to the territory of Afghanistan, British soldiers began to burn cities, loot and kill the population. Soon Jalalabad and Kandahar were captured.

Colonial troops marched victoriously along the roads and cities of the country. In the captured settlements, they left their governors from among the loyal feudal nobility, but the people mostly did not accept new leaders and joined the self-defense units. The success of the advancement of the British was facilitated by a significant superiority over the Afghans in weapons and equipment. This is evidenced by the American historian S. Tanner: "Soon after the catastrophe of 1842, Great Britain crossed the threshold of the era of technological progress, where with each new generation the gap in military relations between rich and poor countries grows exponentially."

When the British approached Kabul, Sher Ali Khan left the capital and headed to Russia with the Russian mission. He planned to visit St. Petersburg, where he was going to seek the convening of an international congress on the Afghan issue. However, in Mazar-i-Sharif, the emir fell ill and soon died. The place on the Afghan throne was taken by his son - a weak-willed and short-sighted politician Mohammad Yakub Khan, known for his pro-British sympathies.

In February 1879, Emir Mohammad Yakub Khan concluded a peace treaty in the town of Gundamak, located in the vicinity of Kabul. In accordance with the document, Afghanistan was turning into a state dependent on Great Britain. Certain Afghan territories, but, most importantly, strategically important mountain passes, went to the colonial possessions. Afghanistan was deprived of the right to independently conduct external relations with other states. In Kabul, a British residence was established, the head of which was given the right to uncontrollably dispose of the state treasury, judge Afghans, pass sentences and carry them out. Russian researcher L.N. Sobolev described the essence of the document as follows: “Reading the text of the Treaty of Gandamak clearly indicates the desire of the British to firmly establish their power throughout Afghanistan, up to the right bank of the Amu Darya and up to Herat inclusive. Independence of Afghanistan after the Gundamax Treaty was out of the question. "

The Afghan people did not accept the terms of the Gandamak peace. The interventionists could count on the support of only a small part of the feudal nobility and those close to Mohammad Yakub Khan. In Afghanistan, militia units began to be created, which began to attack British soldiers using guerrilla methods. They pulled together to Kabul and on November 3, 1879, they raised a popular armed uprising, led by Ayub Khan. Afghan soldiers and militias seized weapons and destroyed the British embassy. By the end of the day, all the British in the capital, including Ambassador P. Cavagnari, were exterminated.

Mohammad Yakub Khan was forced to abdicate and was taken by Ayub Khan. Great Britain was shocked by the events in Kabul, because the scenario of the First Anglo-Afghan War was repeated in detail. Here is what the British press was writing these days: “Our first duty is now to go straight to Kabul and establish our domination there. The second is to roughly punish the Afghans. The Afghan army should be disbanded and all the soldiers of the regiments who participated in the beating should be put to death - every single person. Kabul must be wiped out. If we destroy Kabul, annex Kandahar, occupy Jalalabad, and allow the northern part of the state to be divided into a hundred small districts, then we will have nothing to fear. "

To realize these goals, the British colonial authorities formed a detachment of 26 thousand people. with 25 guns under the command of General F. Roberts, and sent him to Kabul. All the way the invaders were constantly attacked by resistance units. Often, unarmed residents of plundered villages attacked British soldiers at night, engaging in hand-to-hand combat with them, throwing stones from the mountains. The British mercilessly shot the prisoners and finished off the wounded. What, in their opinion, was supposed to frighten the Afghans and break their will to resist, on the contrary, involved more and more forces in the guerrilla struggle. On the outskirts of Kabul, F. Roberts' detachment met with the people's militia. With great difficulty, the British managed to win, break through to the capital and establish control over it.

Having seized Kabul, the interventionists staged a terror with mass executions there, and began to destroy the city house by house. The atrocities of the British were so terrible that the favorite method of bribery ceased to work. After them, even the corrupt feudal nobility did not agree to cooperate with the invaders any longer.

By the end of 1879, the uprising had engulfed the whole of Afghanistan. The colonialists were blocked at several fortified points. Throughout the country, militia units were formed, the number of which began to exceed 100 thousand people. Gradually, the fighters for independence were drawn to the capital, in the area of ​​which battles flared up, marching with varying success. Kabul has repeatedly passed from hand to hand. As a result, the invaders left the city so as not to repeat the fate of their predecessors.

July 27, 1880 near the village. Maiwand, located 55 km from Kandahar, a battle took place between the Afghan army, reinforced by the militia, and a brigade of British regular troops. There were 2.5 thousand people on the side of the invaders. and 12 artillery pieces. And on the side of the Afghans, led by Ayub Khan, there were about 30 thousand people. and 36 guns. Using superiority in artillery, the Afghans fired at enemy positions for an hour and inflicted significant damage on them, and then went on the offensive. The invaders could not withstand the onslaught and fled.

After the victory in the Maiwand battle, the Afghan troops laid siege to the city of Kandahar. The British brought fresh forces to the citadel and defeated the Afghans. They overthrew Ayub Khan and sent him into exile in India. At the same time, in the battles with the Afghan army and the people's militia, the colonialists lost a lot of strength and were forced to retreat.

The Russian Empire was interested in having on its borders not a British colony, but a loyal independent state. Taking advantage of the calm on the battlefields and the anarchy in Kabul, Russia assisted in the return of Dost Mohammed Khan's grandson Abdurrahman Khan to Afghanistan. Thus, a new influential figure was brought into the Great Game.

Abdurrahman Khan gathered a significant army in the north of the country and began to threaten Kabul. This forced the British to enter into negotiations and recognize him as emir. The British residence in Kabul was abolished, and the provisions of the Gandamak Treaty on the stationing of colonial troops in Afghanistan on a permanent basis were canceled.

The Second Anglo-Afghan War resulted in great loss of life and destruction of productive forces. Cities, crafts, trade, agriculture suffered. Another attempt to seize the country by force of arms, enslave the people and establish colonial rule failed. However, the main points of unequal treaties imposed on Afghanistan remained in force. Afghanistan, as before, remained under British protectorate.

Having studied the experience of British troops on Afghan soil, the American historian S. Tanner described it as follows: “The power of the British government extended exactly to the range of a shot from British rifles. As soon as the British troops left, the power of the local leaders was immediately restored behind them. This dictum evokes analogies with modern events in Afghanistan.

Faced twice with the resistance of the Afghan people, Great Britain made a third attempt to turn Afghanistan into a colony by armed means. In the fact that these plans were not destined to come true, Soviet Russia played a certain role.

Military historian, Doctor of Historical Sciences Vladimir Pryamitsyn


No comments

Powered by Blogger.