The Third Anglo Afghan War

By Mike Haran
Aug. 3, 2011

The Caliph in Turkey during World War One urged an anti British jihad. Shah Habibullah of Afghanistan was reluctant to confront Britain. Russia at the time was creating unrest on the North West Frontier Provinces (NWFP). Britain expressed alarm. Habibullah informed her to watch his actions, not his words. In 1916 he declared neutrality at the same time asking Britain for independence. This was declined due to the Bolshevik threat in the north.

On a hunting trip three years later Habibullah was murdered. An officer was tried and executed but still the principal actors evaded detection. Some said it was paid for by a member of a tribe that had suffered in a suppression of rebellion purge, some blamed the British, although why they would want to get rid of a leader so malleable to their policy was never explained. The British themselves suspected one of the war parties who wanted Habibullah out of the way in order to put into effect a policy of agitation in the North Western tribal areas.

The end result was That Amanullah assumed the throne putting the Indian Viceroy, Lord Chelmsford, in a difficult position as the treaties enacted under Habibullah were of a personal nature, and not applicable to the new monarch.

Amanullah exaggerated the unrest in India in order to push for independence and into the bargain, territory on the Indian side of the Durand Line.

There was anger in India over the defeat of Turkey during the First World War as it contained the seat of the Muslim Caliphate. Russian intervention fears, famine, and the Rowletts act allowing for internment without trial, the Jalal Bagh massacre combined with the number of Indians casualties incurred fighting for the British during the war all combined to create a volatile mix.

On the borders with India religious leaders stirred up rebellion. Mashuds and Wazirs rebelled, the Khyber rifles disbanded due to fear of defection. In the NWFP Commissioner Sir George Roose -Keppel kept most of the tribes uncommitted. Attempts by the Afghanistan postmaster at stirring up trouble was forestalled by effective British counter intelligence. On the day before the uprising the water supply was turned off, the city gates locked forcing the ringleaders to surrender.

The Khyber area was then stabilized, a fort (Spin Baldak)on the road between Quetta and Kandahar captured. The British posts at Thal took casualties and had to be evacuated. However the tribal victory was short lived as they, the tribesman, withdrew in the face of a relieving British force.

An RAF attack from India on Jalalabad where one and a half tons of bombs were dropped, and on Kabul where Vickers V1500 bombers managed to hit the armaments factory, the royal palace and the tomb of a past Emir. One of the participants in the raid was the future commander of World War Two Bomber Command, Bomber Harris, his experience during the Afghan conflict affecting his view of future bombing operations.

Amanmnullah condemns the air attacks citing the furor in Britain over the Zeppelin raids attacking defenceless civilians. Hostilities end a month after, no side gaining a clear advantage. Amanmnullah then went on to astound the British by asking them for military equipment as, in his view, they had started the war. They replied by by confiscating subsidy arrears and permission to transport arms through India. In addition the border as defined by the Durand commission would stand unmodified.

A letter attached to the statement penned by the chief negotiate put a fly in the ointment as far as the British government was concerned. It stated that Afghanistan was now officially independent making it look like a defeat for British arms. London distanced itself from the document as did the foreign office who replied to a delegation from Afghanistan that they had no dealings with them and they should talk to the British Indian government.

Lord Chelmsford, the Indian Viceroy, was of the opinion that the document should stand as all over the world countries were imbibing the air of independence and it was counter productive for Britain to go against the general trend.

In the face of continuing unrest on the frontier Britain did however continue with her military presence. It appeared that the tribes were again being stirred up, Amanullah the most likely culprit.In 1923 he went to Jalalabad on the Indian side of the line. It was not long before he was in trouble.

In 1924 in the face of British insistence he had withdrawn from the trans -Durand line and subsequently incurred the contempt of the tribes of the Khost region led by the Lame Mullah against whom the Afghan army was helpless. Aircraft supplied by the British and flown by German pilots caused widespread resentment as did the execution of the Lame Mullah and some fifty of his followers. Reforms put in place by Amanbullah defining citizen ship rights regardless of religion and tribal affinity and womens rights were now watered down.

In 1928 Another rebellion, this time by a gang of brigands who attacked a government garrison that surrendered without firing a shot. The rebels then marched on Kabul, a battle taking place on the grounds of the British legation. The rebels eventually retreated to be ambushed by a government force and annihilated. In 1929 Amanullah fled Kabul, returned, and then, due to tribal unrest, fled again, this time to be Italy to be graciously welcomed by King Emanuel where he died in 1960.

Again, as in the case of the previous Emir, rumours of British involvement; especially in the soviet and European press. Even in the British papers there was speculation as to whether the famed Lawrence of Arabia, now serving in the RAF in the frontier provinces as Air Craft Man Ross, had his finger in the pie. The blame must be laid at the feet of Amanullah and his Turkish advisers who insisted that the men in the army have their pay reduced and their accommodation paid for by the state leading to corruption and a lowering of moral. He was not a strong ruler, certainly not strong enough to hold the country together from Kabul in the face of tribal and religious intransigence. A problem still going on in the Afghanistan of today.


About the author: Here is the link to my new web site devoid of any connection with the above which I use as a device to publish my war games,link

Read Mike Haran's essays on history at http://www.geocities.com/manzikertca/

Email: manzikertca@yahoo.com

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