Second Anglo-Afghan War

Last updated
Second Anglo–Afghan War
Part of The Great Game
Battle in Afghanistan.jpg
92nd Highlanders at Kandahar. Oil by Richard Caton Woodville Jr.
Date1878–1880
Location
Result

British victory [1] [2] [3]

Territorial
changes
Districts of Quetta, Pishin, Sibi, Harnai & Thal Chotiali ceded to British India [9]
Belligerents

Black flag.svg  Afghanistan

Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  British Empire

Commanders and leaders
Casualties and losses

Total fatalities are unknown

  • 5,000 killed in major battles [10]

Total: 9,850 fatalities

Part of a series on the
History of Afghanistan
Shuja Shah Durrani of Afghanistan in 1839.jpg
Timeline
Related historical names of the region

The Second Anglo-Afghan War (Pashto : د افغان-انګرېز دويمه جګړه) was a military conflict fought between the British Raj and the Emirate of Afghanistan from 1878 to 1880, when the latter was ruled by Sher Ali Khan of the Barakzai dynasty, the son of former Emir Dost Mohammad Khan. The war was part of the Great Game between the British and Russian empires.

Contents

The war was split into two campaigns - the first began in November 1878 with the British invasion of Afghanistan. The British were quickly victorious and forced the Amir - Sher Ali Khan to flee. Ali's successor Mohammad Yaqub Khan immediately sued for peace and the Treaty of Gandamak was then signed on 26 May 1879. The British sent an envoy and mission led by Sir Louis Cavagnari to Kabul but on 3 September this mission was massacred and the conflict was reignited by Ayub Khan which led to the abdication of Yaqub. [11]

The second campaign ended in September 1880 when the British decisively defeated Ayub Khan outside Kandahar. A new Amir - Abdur Rahman Khan selected by the British, ratified and confirmed the Gandamak treaty once more. When the British and Indian soldiers had withdrawn, the Afghans agreed to let the British attain all of their geopolitical objectives, as well as create a buffer between the British Raj and the Russian Empire. [12]

Background

After tension between Russia and Britain in Europe ended with the June 1878 Congress of Berlin, Russia turned its attention to Central Asia. That same summer, Russia sent an uninvited diplomatic mission to Kabul. Sher Ali Khan, the Amir of Afghanistan, tried unsuccessfully to keep them out. Russian envoys arrived in Kabul on 22 July 1878, and on 14 August, the British demanded that Sher Ali accept a British mission too. [13]

The Amir not only refused to receive a British mission under Neville Bowles Chamberlain, but threatened to stop it if it were dispatched. Lord Lytton, the viceroy of India, ordered a diplomatic mission to set out for Kabul in September 1878 but the mission was turned back as it approached the eastern entrance of the Khyber Pass, triggering the Second Anglo–Afghan War. [13]

War

First phase

The first campaign began in November 1878 when a British force of about 50,000 fighting men, mostly Indians, was distributed into three military columns which penetrated Afghanistan at three different points. The British victories at the Battle of Ali Masjid and the Battle of Peiwar Kotal meant that the approach to Kabul was left virtually undefended by Afghan troops. [14]

An alarmed Sher Ali attempted to appeal in person to the Russian Tsar for assistance, but their insistence was that he should seek terms of surrender from the British. [15] He returned to Mazar-i-Sharif, where he died on 21 February 1879. [16]

Treaty

With British forces occupying much of the country, Sher Ali's son and successor, Mohammad Yaqub Khan, signed the Treaty of Gandamak in May 1879 to prevent a British invasion of the rest of the country. According to this agreement and in return for an annual subsidy and vague assurances of assistance in case of foreign aggression, Yaqub relinquished control of Afghan foreign affairs to Britain. British representatives were installed in Kabul and other locations, British control was extended to the Khyber and Michni passes, and Afghanistan ceded various North-West Frontier Province areas and Quetta to Britain. The British Army then withdrew. [17]

However, on 3 September 1879 an uprising in Kabul led to the slaughter of Sir Louis Cavagnari, the British representative, along with his guards, and staff – provoking the next phase of the Second Afghan War. [18]

Second phase

Titled "Dignity & Impudence" for stereotypic personality traits of elephants and mules respectively, this photograph by John Burke shows an elephant and mule battery during the Second Anglo-Afghan War. The mule team would have hauled supplies or towed the small field gun, while the elephants towed the larger gun. The gun appears to be a Rifled Muzzle Loader (RML) 7-pounder mountain gun. The men in the photograph are a mix of British soldiers and Indian sepoys. The group kneeling around the smaller, muzzle-loaded field gun is preparing to fire after the soldier at front left has used the ramrod to push the charge down into the gun. The gun at right, towed by elephants, appears to be a Rifled breech loader (RBL) 40-pounder Armstrong Elephant and Mule Battery ("Dignity & Impudence") WDL11496.png
Titled "Dignity & Impudence" for stereotypic personality traits of elephants and mules respectively, this photograph by John Burke shows an elephant and mule battery during the Second Anglo-Afghan War. The mule team would have hauled supplies or towed the small field gun, while the elephants towed the larger gun. The gun appears to be a Rifled Muzzle Loader (RML) 7-pounder mountain gun. The men in the photograph are a mix of British soldiers and Indian sepoys. The group kneeling around the smaller, muzzle-loaded field gun is preparing to fire after the soldier at front left has used the ramrod to push the charge down into the gun. The gun at right, towed by elephants, appears to be a Rifled breech loader (RBL) 40-pounder Armstrong

Major General Sir Frederick Roberts led the Kabul Field Force over the Shutargardan Pass into central Afghanistan, defeated the Afghan Army at Charasiab on 6 October 1879, and occupied Kabul two days later. [19] Ghazi Mohammad Jan Khan Wardak, and a force of 10,000 Afghans, staged an uprising and attacked British forces near Kabul in the Siege of the Sherpur Cantonment in December 1879. Despite besieging the British garrison there, he failed to maintain the Siege of Sherpur, instead shifting focus to Roberts' force, and this resulted in the collapse of this rebellion. Yaqub Khan, suspected of complicity in the massacre of Cavagnari and his staff, was obliged to abdicate. The British considered a number of possible political settlements, including partitioning Afghanistan between multiple rulers or placing Yaqub's brother Ayub Khan on the throne, but ultimately decided to install his cousin Abdur Rahman Khan as emir instead. [20] [21]

A rare coin minted during the occupation of Kandahar. British Crown within wreath on the obverse, Arabic inscription in four lines on the reverse. These issues were struck under local authorities who routinely recalled and devalued the coppers. This abusive practice lead to a great variety of types, often featuring various animal or flower motifs. Accordingly, the types on this coin were likely not ordered by the occupation authorities, but rather placed by an opportunistic engraver eager to please the occupiers. Coin minted in Kandahar during its occupation during the Second Anglo-Afghan War.jpg
A rare coin minted during the occupation of Kandahar. British Crown within wreath on the obverse, Arabic inscription in four lines on the reverse. These issues were struck under local authorities who routinely recalled and devalued the coppers. This abusive practice lead to a great variety of types, often featuring various animal or flower motifs. Accordingly, the types on this coin were likely not ordered by the occupation authorities, but rather placed by an opportunistic engraver eager to please the occupiers.

Ayub Khan, who had been serving as governor of Herat, rose in revolt, defeated a British detachment at the Battle of Maiwand in July 1880 and besieged Kandahar. Roberts then led the main British force from Kabul and decisively defeated Ayub Khan on 1 September at the Battle of Kandahar, bringing his rebellion to an end. [20]

Aftermath

With Ayub Khan defeated, the war was officially over and the British selected and supported a new Amir - Abdur Rahman Khan son of Muhammad Afzal and nephew of the former Amir Sher Ali. Rahman confirmed the Treaty of Gandamak, whereby the British took control of the territories ceded by Yaqub Khan, and also of Afghanistan's foreign policy in exchange for protection and a subsidy. [22] The Afghan tribes maintained internal rule and local customs, and provided a continuing buffer between the British Raj and the Russian Empire. [12]

Abandoning the provocative policy of maintaining a British resident in Kabul, but having achieved all their other objectives, the British withdrew from the region. [20] By April 1881 all British and Indian troops had left Afghanistan, but British Indian agents were left behind to smooth liaison between the governments. [23] No further trouble resulted between Afghanistan and British India during Rahman's period of rule, and he became known as the 'iron Amir'. The Russians kept well out of Afghan internal affairs, with the exception of the Panjdeh incident three years later, resolved by arbitration and negotiation after an initial British ultimatum. [24]

In 1893, Mortimer Durand was despatched to Kabul by British India to sign an agreement with Rahman for fixing the limits of their respective spheres of influence as well as improving diplomatic relations and trade. On November 12, 1893, the Durand Line Agreement was reached. leading to the creation of a new North-West Frontier Province.

Timeline of battles

There were several decisive actions in the Second Anglo–Afghan War, from 1878 to 1880. Here are the battles and actions in chronological order. An asterisk (*) indicates a clasp was awarded for that particular battle with the Afghanistan Medal.

British team at the site of the Battle of Ali Masjid Battle of Ali Masjid - 19 members of the Yorkshire Infantry.jpg
British team at the site of the Battle of Ali Masjid
British Royal Horse Artillery withdrawing at the Battle of Maiwand Royal Horse Artillery fleeing from Afghan attack at the Battle of Maiwand.jpg
British Royal Horse Artillery withdrawing at the Battle of Maiwand
Afghan victors of the Battle of Maiwand Victory day at Kandahar 1880.jpg
Afghan victors of the Battle of Maiwand

1878

  1. Battle of Ali Masjid* (British victory)
  2. Battle of Peiwar Kotal* (British victory)

1879

  1. Action at Takht-i-Pul (British victory)
  2. Action at Matun (British victory)
  3. Battle of Khushk-i-Nakud (British victory)
  4. Battle of Fatehabad (Afghan victory)
  5. Battle of Kam Dakka (Afghan victory)
  6. Battle of Charasiab* (British victory) [25]
  7. Battle of Shajui
  8. Battle of Karez Mir
  9. Battle of Takht-i-Shah
  10. Battle of Asmai Heights* (Afghan victory)
  11. Siege of Sherpur* (British victory)

1880

  1. Battle of Ahmed Khel* (British victory)
  2. Battle of Arzu
  3. Second Battle of Charasiab
  4. Battle of Maiwand (Afghan victory)
  5. Battle of Deh Koja (Afghan Victory)
  6. Battle of Kandahar* (British victory)

1881

  1. Kandahar (and Afghanistan) Evacuation

Order of battle

Durban Maidan of Sherpur Cantonment in 1879. Durbar Maidan of Sherpur Cantonment in 1879.jpg
Durban Maidan of Sherpur Cantonment in 1879.
Bengal Sapper and Miners Bastion in Sherpur cantonment. Bengal Sapper and Miners Bastion, in Sherpur cantonment, Kabul, Second Afghan War, c. 1879.jpg
Bengal Sapper and Miners Bastion in Sherpur cantonment.
Highlanders of Amir Yaqub at Gandamak Highlanders of Amir Yaqub at Gandamak.jpg
Highlanders of Amir Yaqub at Gandamak
Drummer James Roddick of the Gordon Highlanders defends a wounded officer during British attack at Gundi Mulla Sahibdad during the Battle of Kandahar William Skeoch Cumming01.jpg
Drummer James Roddick of the Gordon Highlanders defends a wounded officer during British attack at Gundi Mulla Sahibdad during the Battle of Kandahar
45th Rattray's Sikhs guard Afghan prisoners during an advance through the Khyber Pass 45th Sikh Regiment escorting prisoners - 2nd afghan war.jpg
45th Rattray's Sikhs guard Afghan prisoners during an advance through the Khyber Pass

See also

Related Research Articles

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Treaty of Gandamak

The Treaty of Gandamak was signed on 26 May 1879 to officially end the first phase of the Second Anglo-Afghan War. Under the treaty, the Afghan Emir, Mohammad Yaqub Khan, ceded various frontier areas to the British Raj, including Quetta, Pishin, Harnai, Sibi, Kurram, and Khyber, while retaining sovereignty over the rest of Afghanistan.

Battle of Maiwand battle

The Battle of Maiwand on 27 July 1880 was one of the principal battles of the Second Anglo-Afghan War. Under the leadership of Ayub Khan, the Afghans defeated a much smaller force consisting of two brigades of British and Indian troops under Brigadier-General George Burrows; albeit at a high price: between 2,050 and 2,750 Afghan Pashtun warriors were killed, and probably about 1,500 wounded. British and Indian forces suffered 969 soldiers killed and 177 wounded.

Mohammad Yaqub Khan Amir of Afghanistan

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Ayub Khan (Emir of Afghanistan) Emir of Afghanistan

Ghazi Mohammad Ayub Khan also known as The Victor of Maiwand or The Afghan Prince Charlie was, for a while, the governor of Herat Province in Emirate of Afghanistan. He was Emir of Afghanistan from October 12, 1879 to May 31, 1880. He also the led the Afghan troops during the Second Anglo-Afghan War and defeated the British Indian Army at Battle of Maiwand. Following his defeat at Battle of Kandahar, Ayub Khan was deposed and exiled to British India. However, Ayub Khan fled to Persia. After negotiations in 1888 with Sir Mortimer Durand, the ambassador at Tehran, Ayub Khan became a pensioner of the British Raj and traveled to British India in 1888 and lived there until his death in 1914 in Lahore, Punjab. He was buried in Peshawar and had eleven wives, fifteen sons and ten daughters. All of his successor stayed in Pakistan after his death. Two of his grandson, Sardar Hissam Mahmud el-Effendi and Sardar Muhammad Ismail Khan, were Brigadier in Pakistan Army.

Battle of Ahmed Khel

The Battle of Ahmed Khel was fought between the British Empire with its British and Indian armies and the Afghans, on the road between Kandahar and Kabul in Afghanistan on 19 April 1880. The battle occurred during General Donald Stewart's march from Kandahar to Kabul via Ghazni, and ended in a British victory.

Kabul Expedition (1842) punitive campaign undertaken by the British following the disastrous retreat from Kabul

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Battle of Kandahar battle

The Battle of Kandahar, 1 September 1880, was the last major conflict of the Second Anglo-Afghan War. The battle in southern Afghanistan was fought between the British forces under command of General Roberts and the Afghan forces led by Ayub Khan. It ended with a decisive British victory, having inflicted nearly 3,000 casualties in total.

Battle of Peiwar Kotal

The Battle of Peiwar Kotal was fought on 28–29 November 1878 between British forces under Sir Frederick Roberts and Afghan forces under Karim Khan, during the opening stages of the Second Anglo-Afghan War. The British were victorious, and seized the strategic Peiwar Kotal Pass leading into Afghanistan.

Siege of the Sherpur Cantonment siege

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Battle of Ali Masjid battle of Ali Masjid

The Battle of Ali Masjid, which took place on 21 November 1878, was the opening battle in the Second Anglo-Afghan War between the British forces, under Lieutenant-General Sir Samuel James Browne, and the Afghan forces, under Ghulam Haider Khan. The perceived offence of an Afghan general's refusal to allow a British envoy entrance to the country was used as an excuse to attack the fortress of Ali Masjid, as the opening battle in the war. Despite numerous setbacks, including half the troops getting lost or delayed and missing the battle entirely, the British were lucky that the Afghans abandoned their position overnight.

The Peshawar Valley Field Force was a British field force of around 12,000 men, a mix of both British regiments and South Asian regiments, under the command of Sir Samuel J. Browne during the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878-1880). The force fought at the Battle of Ali Masjid which was the first battle of the war.

56th Punjabi Rifles (Frontier Force)

The 56th Punjabi Rifles was an infantry regiment of the British Indian Army. It was raised in 1849 as the 2nd Regiment of Punjab Infantry. It was designated as the 56th Punjabi Rifles in 1906 and became 2nd Battalion 13th Frontier Force Rifles in 1922. In 1947, it was allocated to the Pakistan Army, where it continues to exist as 8th Battalion The Frontier Force Regiment.

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58th Vaughans Rifles (Frontier Force)

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The following lists events from 1879 in Afghanistan.

References

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Bibliography

Wikisource-logo.svg This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Abdur Rahman Khan". Encyclopædia Britannica . 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 37–38.