August 17, 2016

Afghanistan and the Anglo-Russian Dispute

Theophilus Francis Rodenbough (1838–1912) was a Union Army officer during the American Civil War, who received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions at the Battle of Trevilian Station (Virginia) in June 1864. After his retirement from the Army in 1870, Rodenbough wrote several books on military themes. He composed Afghanistan and the Anglo-Russian Dispute very rapidly in the spring of 1885, as it appeared that Russia and the British Empire were headed for war in a dispute over the presence of Russian military forces in the region south of Merv (near present-day Mary, Turkmenistan). The Russians were reportedly established on the road to Herat, Afghanistan, which was seen by the British as a threat to Afghanistan and through Afghanistan to India. Following introductory chapters on the geography and recent history of Central Asia and Afghanistan, the heart of the book is two chapters, “The British Forces and Routes” and “The Russian Forces and Approaches.” Each of these chapters discusses the organization, size, geographic distribution, systems of transport and supply, and leadership of the two armies. The British chapter covers the routes by which a British army would proceed from British India (through present-day Pakistan, then part of India) into Afghanistan to confront the Russians; the Russian chapter describes the routes by which Russian forces might move against Herat. In a final chapter, “Review of the Military Situation,” Rodenbough endorses the view of British Lieutenant General Sir Edward Bruce Hamley that British interests would best be served by fighting the Russians on the Kandahar‒Ghazni‒Kabul line. In the end, the crisis of 1885 was defused by diplomatic means, and there was no war between Russia and Great Britain. The book is illustrated with sketches of scenes from Afghanistan and portraits of leading Afghan political figures. It includes three maps, one a large fold-out map of Afghanistan and surrounding territories, drawn and corrected from the latest military surveys.

Narrative of a Journey from Heraut to Khiva, Moscow, and St. Petersburgh

James Abbott (1807‒96) was a British army officer who went to India in 1823. He participated in the Anglo-Indian invasion that precipitated the First Anglo-Afghan War (1839−42). He reached Kandahar in April 1839 and was a member of a political mission to Herat. In December 1839 he was sent on a mission to the Khanate of Khiva (in present-day Uzbekistan), which was under attack by a Russian military expedition and which had requested British help. The Russian expedition was ostensibly aimed at freeing Russian slaves held by the Khivans and ending attacks on caravans, but it was in fact intended to bring the khanate under Russian control. Abbott was unable to convince the khan of Khiva to free the Russian slaves in order to eliminate any pretext for Russian intervention, but he succeeded in convincing the khan to agree to a treaty that provided for the establishment of a British agent in Khiva and empowered the British to mediate between Khiva and Russia. Abbott then traveled to Saint Petersburg to pursue the mediation. He left Khiva in March 1840 and, after many adventures, which included being attacked and kidnapped by a band of Kazakhs, reached the Russian capital, where his efforts at mediation were rejected. He returned to England and eventually to his post in India. In 1843 he published his two-volume Narrative of a Journey from Heraut to Khiva, Moscow, and St. Petersburgh, presented here. The book contains a detailed account of Abbott’s mission, beginning with his departure from Herat and covering his journey through Turkestan, across Russia to Saint Petersburg, on to London, and finally back to Calcutta. Volume one contains a large fold-out map with the route of Abbott’s journey from Herat to Khiva and on to Orenburg, Russia. An interesting aspect of the book is the perspectives offered by Summud Khaun, an Afghan steward who accompanied Abbott on the entire journey, visiting places not only in Central Asia and Russia, but London, Paris, Genoa, Rome, Naples, Athens, and other European cities on the way back to India. Abbott offers many of his companion’s observations on European customs and conditions (he feels great pity at the poverty and squalor he sees in Naples, for example) under the heading “Summud Khauniana.” In 1845‒53 Abbott was commissioner of Hazara, India, where the city of Abbottabad is named for him.

A Review of the Political Situation in Central Asia

Muhammad ʻAbdulghani Jalalpuri (1864–1943), better known as Dr. Abdul Ghani, was an Indian Muslim reformist and educator who was active at the Afghan court in the early 20th century. He was the English secretary to Amir ‘Abd al-Rahman Khan (reigned 1880–1901) and Amir Habibullah Khan (reigned 1901–19). Abdul Ghani’s A Review of the Political Situation in Central Asia was written after his return to British India from Afghanistan. Published in Lahore in 1921, the book examines the geopolitical developments in Central Asia in the wake of World War I, the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, and Afghanistan’s achievement of complete independence in 1919. He argues that Indian leaders need to understand correctly the geopolitical changes in Central Asia in order for them to guide their country safely and successfully to independence. The book is comprised of a preface, an introduction entitled “Why should India have an interest in Central Asia?”, and 12 chapters. The first four chapters deal with Afghanistan and its rulers. Chapter five is entitled “Russian Advance into Central Asia.” It is followed by four chapters that analyze, review, and critique Russian Bolshevism. Chapters 10‒12 deal with “India and the present revolutionary struggle of the world” and the interconnections among developments in Russia, Afghanistan, and India. The book has two appendices and contains six illustrations depicting notable Afghans of the time, including Amir Amanullah Khan (reigned 1919‒29), several ministers, and Sardar Mohammad Nadir Khan, the leading Afghan general in the Third Anglo-Afghan War of 1919, and later King Muhammad Nadir Shah of Afghanistan in 1929‒33. Abdul Ghani criticizes what he considers the mischief brought about by “popular applause” and the readiness of the Indian political class to consider foreign assistance as a means to gain independence. The book ends with suggestions of what Indian nationalists should do to secure independence. “India” as used by Abdul Ghani refers to British India, meaning Pakistan (and Bangladesh) as well as present-day India.

Soudan and Afghanistan. The Vote of Credit

William Ewart Gladstone (1809–98) was four times Liberal prime minister of Great Britain (1868–74, 1880–85, 1886, 1892–94). One of the major political figures of the Victorian era, he served in the Colonial Office and was three times chancellor of the Exchequer, including during the first two years of his second government. Soudan and Afghanistan. The Vote of Credit is a pamphlet containing the text of a speech that Gladstone delivered before the Committee of Supply in the House of Commons on April 27, 1885, less than a month after the Panjdeh incident between Russia and Afghanistan and three months after the fall of Khartoum to the Mahdi forces and the subsequent killing of General Charles Gordon. In the Panjdeh incident, Russian forces seized Afghan territory south of the Oxus River (today known as the Amu Darya), leading to a clash with Afghan troops and a diplomatic crisis with Great Britain, which was sensitive to Russian pressures on Afghanistan and the potential threat they posed to British India. In the speech, Gladstone requested a Vote of Credit amounting to £11,000,000, of which £6,500,000 was designated for unspecified “special preparations” to strengthen the hand of the British Empire. It was obvious from the speech that these preparations were meant to counter possible Russian threats to Afghanistan and India. The other £4,500,000 was to be spent in connection with the crisis in Sudan. Gladstone expected the Sudan money to come with a censure, for he was seen as having allowed General Gordon to go to Khartoum but having failed in the attempt to rescue him from the forces of the Mahdi. In the end, the credit was approved. The speech was published by the Liberal Central Association of Great Britain in 1885.

Narrative of the War in Affghanistan, in 1838-39

Narrative of the War in Affghanistan, in 1838‒39, by Sir Henry Havelock (1795–1857), is a two-volume account of the First Anglo-Afghan War (1839‒42), based on Havelock’s personal experiences, when he was a captain in the 13th Regiment and aide-de-camp to Major-General Sir Willoughby Cotton, commander of the Bengal Division of the Army of the Indus. In December 1838 the British launched an invasion of Afghanistan from India with the aim of overthrowing the Afghan ruler, Amir Dost Mohammad Khan, and replacing him with the supposedly pro-British former ruler, Shah Shujaʻ. The British were at first successful. They installed Shah Shujaʻ as ruler in Jalalabad and forced Dost Mohammad to flee the country. In 1841 Dost Mohammad returned to Afghanistan to lead an uprising against the invaders and Shah Shujaʻ. After the occupying forces suffered major defeats, the British sent a larger force from India to exact retribution and to recover hostages, before finally withdrawing in October 1842. Published in 1840, Havelock’s book covers only the first two years of the war and not the insurgency that began in 1841. In the first volume, Havelock recounts the preparations for war, the British alliance with Sikh leader Ranjit Singh, and the march by the Army of the Indus to Kandahar and the occupation of the city. The second volume recounts the arrival of the Bombay Division in Kandahar, the joint march to Kabul and the fall of the city, and the skirmishes with the Afghan tribesmen around the Khyber Pass as the army moved out of Kabul toward the Indus. A sketch map shows the route taken by the Army of the Indus. The appendix at the end of volume two contains the texts of many military orders and other historical documents. Havelock went on to serve with distinction in the Sepoy Rebellion (1857‒59), where he died of wounds sustained in the first year of that conflict.

British Agents in Afghanistan

British Agents in Afghanistan is a pamphlet by Sir Owen Tudor Burne that was privately printed in London in 1879 and formed part of the British debate over the origins of and justification for the Second Anglo-Afghan (1878‒80). Burne was an army officer who, after military service in India during the Sepoy Rebellion (1857‒59), held a number of posts in the government of India, including as private secretary to Earl Mayo, viceroy of India from 1869 to 1872, and to Lord Lytton, the viceroy from 1876 to 1880. The proximate cause of the British invasion of Afghanistan was the reported refusal of the amir, Sher Ali Khan, to receive a delegation of British officers after he had received a Russian mission in the summer of 1878. Critics of the war argued that the Conservative government of Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli and the viceroy, Lord Lytton, had provoked the war by changing the previous British policy under which Sher Ali, they contended, was not to be pressured to accept resident British officers or agents in Afghanistan. British Agents in Afghanistan presents a detailed argument that such criticisms were incorrect. Burne bases his argument on the existing documentation and his recollections of meetings with Afghan officials at which he was present. He takes as his starting point a letter in the London Times by the Duke of Argyll (1823–1900; secretary of state for India, 1868–74) in which Argyll states that Lord Mayo had promised to the amir “that no European officers would be placed as Residents in his cities.” This pledge reportedly was made at a meeting with Sher Ali at Umballa (present-day Ambela, Pakistan) in 1869. Burne argues that it was only intended as an “intermediate” policy, not to be adhered to permanently, and that it was premised on Russian non-involvement in the affairs of Afghanistan. He also argues that the amir was mainly concerned about the stationing of British officers in the capital of Kabul, and that he would have gladly accepted British residents in Balkh, Herat, or Kandahar. Burne’s autobiography, Memories, published in London in 1907, contains additional information about his involvement in British policy toward Afghanistan in this period.