Wednesday, June 22, 2011

War on the North-West Frontier

A series of conflicts known as the Anglo-Afghan Wars took place during the imperialist struggle for domination in Afghanistan between Britain and the Russian Empire in the 19th century.

On 1 January 1842 the besieged British garrison at Kabul, commanded by General William Elphinstone, made an agreement that safe passage for the soldiers and their dependants from Afghanistan would be granted. Five days later, the retreat began. The British column, more than 16,000-strong, was composed of about 4,500 British and Indian soldiers, along with as many as 12,000 camp followers. As they struggled through the snowbound passes, the British were picked off in a series of ambushes by Ghilzay tribesmen armed with Jezails. They were then massacred in close combat while moving through the 50km/30 miles of treacherous gorges and passes lying between Kabul and Gandamak.

After further wars, in 1893 the British succeeded in imposing control up to the Durand Line, a border that ran through the Afghan tribal lands between Afghanistan and what was then British India and thus divided Afghanistan.
The last stand of the 44th Regiment at Gandamak, during the retreat from Kabul in 1841. Cold was as much a killer as Afghan fire, but together they eventually killed more than 16,000 soldiers and camp followers in what became a Victorian military disaster.

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