Wednesday, January 05, 2011
In 1839, British troops and Indian sepoys poured into Afghanistan in what turned out to be an unnecessary pre-emptive move to block a feared Russian expansion into the territory. Although the Russian envoy had failed to woo the Afghan ruler, the British authorities decided to err on the side of caution and invaded Afghanistan anyway.
Their intent was to put a pliant puppet on the Kabul throne to ensure that the northwest frontier of their lucrative Indian colony remained secure.
True to the historical pattern, the invading British made short work of the poorly armed Afghan defenders. However, once the occupation phase began, the British became overconfident in their military superiority.
Prior to the invasion, Britain’s East India Company had paid the border tribes a tribute — or bribe — to allow their trade convoys safe passage through the Khyber Pass. Now that they had defeated the ragtag Afghan army and set up shop in Kabul, the East India Company decided to save themselves some money and cancelled the tribute payments.
The result was that the Pashtun tribes along the border rose up in revolt and cut off the British supply lines from India.
Forced to retreat from Kabul in the fall of 1841, the British garrison suffered the most complete defeat in military history, with only one survivor — dressed as a woman — managing to elude the victorious Afghans.
Posted by DotConnector at 09:07