Our Afghan Policy and the Occupation of Candahar


Our Afghan Policy and the Occupation of Candahar is a pamphlet published in London in 1880 at the height of the debate in Great Britain over the Second Anglo-Afghan War of 1878–80. The author, identified only by the initials “D.B.,” was Sir David Miller Barbour (1841‒1928), a senior British administrator in India and expert on Indian monetary issues. He argues that there was no moral justification for the Anglo-Indian invasion of Afghanistan and that any argument for the invasion of, or for continued British occupation of, any part of the country had to rest on “expediency” and the need to retain control over all or parts of Afghanistan for the defense of India. He then analyzes two potential types of danger to India, “dangers arising from the action of the Afghans,” and “dangers arising from the action of Russia, on, through, or in conjunction with, the Afghans.” The author proceeds to make the case that neither of these kinds of dangers is very real, and that the “arguments appear conclusive against the occupation of Candahar, or of any portion of Afghan territory whatever.” The focus of the discussion is on the possible interaction of a military threat emanating from Afghanistan, either by the Russians or by the Russians in concert with the Afghans, with a mutiny in the Indian army, particularly by its Muslim soldiers. One of the key arguments he advances for not permanently occupying Kandahar is that this would deprive the Indian government of trustworthy soldiers whose services might be needed in India to quell a rebellion. The Liberal William Gladstone replaced the Conservative Benjamin Disraeli as prime minister in April 1880 and took office committed to a policy of full withdrawal. The last Anglo-Indian troops left Afghanistan in the spring of 1881.

Last updated: August 31, 2016