Baba Wali Kotal


This photograph of Baba Wali Kotal is from an album of rare historical photographs depicting people and places associated with the Second Anglo-Afghan War. The village and pass of Baba Wali were named for a Kandahari holy man whose tomb was nearby. The place was the site of a major battle outside Kandahar in September 1880, between Afghan forces led by Ghazi Mohammad Ayub Khan (1857–1914) and British and Indian forces under Sir Frederick Roberts (1832–1914). The British defeated Ayub Khan, raising his siege of the city and effectively ending the war. Shown here is the site of the battle and the British defensive lines. In the background on the left is the mountain with the Chilzina (a chamber carved out of the rock); another mountain can be seen on the right. Ayub Khan placed his artillery between these two peaks. The Second Anglo-Afghan War began in November 1878 when Great Britain, fearful of what it saw as growing Russian influence in Afghanistan, invaded the country from British India. The first phase of the war ended in May 1879 with the Treaty of Gandamak, which permitted the Afghans to maintain internal sovereignty but forced them to cede control over their foreign policy to the British. Fighting resumed in September 1879 after an anti-British uprising in Kabul, and finally concluded with the decisive Battle of Kandahar. The album includes portraits of British and Afghan leaders and military personnel, portraits of ordinary Afghan people, and depictions of British military camps and activities, structures, landscapes, and cities and towns. The sites shown are all located within the borders of present-day Afghanistan or Pakistan (a part of British India at the time). About a third of the photographs were taken by John Burke (circa 1843–1900), another third by Sir Benjamin Simpson (1831–1923), and the remainder by several other photographers. Some of the photographs are unattributed. The album possibly was compiled by a member of the British Indian government, but this has not been confirmed. How it came to the Library of Congress is not known.

Last updated: September 30, 2016