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19th of August

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aug 19

In 1919 Afghanistan gained independence from Great Britain.

 

In 500 BC the Persian King Darius I conquered the Northern half of the country and the Persian’s maintained control until Alexander the Great defeated King Darius III and the Persians, on the 1st of October 331 AD in the Battle of Gaugamela in his campaign to conquer the known world. But Afghanistan only remained part of Alexander’s great empire for a few years as Alexander died of fever aged 33 on the 13th of June 323 BC in Babylon and shortly after his death civil wars led to the breakup of his great empire. The Greeks began to control North Afghanistan from 323 BC and due to its strategic value, being so close to the Indian subcontinent, control of Afghanistan has changed hands repeatedly and been part of many empires. By 50 AD Afghanistan culture had a strong Buddhist influence but this was largely destroyed by 400 AD with the Hun invasion. By 625 Islam influences the country by the 11th century Afghanistan has become the centre of Islamic influence in the region. In 1219 Genghis Kahn began his invasion of Afghanistan and within two years he killed a huge percentage of the native population and laid waste to the land. The effects of the invasion live on today. Until then Afghanistan had vast areas of green and fertile land due to their irrigation system and agricultural experience but Kahn’s hordes destroyed the irrigation network and the land turned to desert and never recovered. The next major empire to consume Afghanistan was the Timurid Empire in 1383 followed by the Mughal Empire in 1506.

 

In the 19th Century Britain’s control of India led to repeated confrontation between Afghanistan and Britain. The British and Russian Empires were in competition in the 19th century for influence over Asia in what became known as “The Great Game”. Britain believed that Russia may attempt an invasion of India using Afghanistan as a corridor. Once again Afghanistan’s became very strategically important and both countries sent envoys to Kabul in an attempt to gain favour. Both failed and changed their tact. Russia backed their Persian allies in an invasion of Afghanistan but the invasion ended in 1938 when Britain threatened war. Britain attempted to invade Afghanistan and place the current leader with one more sympathetic to the British. This was the cause of the first Anglo-Afghan War which began in December 1938 and by the 22nd of July 1939 the British had a decisive victory and returned Shuja Shah Durrani, who was sympathetic to Britain, to the Afghan throne after he was exiled in 1809. But the Afghans resented the change in power and rose up against the new leadership and British forces. British forces defeated the Afghans on several occasions but change of Government forced the Generals to abandon the war in 1842 and Durrani was soon replaced.

 

In 1878 Britain again attempted to remove the un-sympathetic Afghan Ruler from the throne and again succeeded. The ousted leader, Sher Ali Khan, pleaded for aid from Russia but was denied any help and died in 1879. His son, Mohammad Yaqub Khan, signed a treaty with Britain (the treaty of Gandamak on the 26th of May 1879) giving them control of the countries foreign policy and ceding some territory but  allowing him to maintain control of the rest of Afghanistan. On the 31st of May 1880 Abdur Rahman Kahn became the new leader of Afghanistan and during his reign British and afghan relations were good. When he died on the 1st of October 1901 his son Habibullah Khan became the new Emir. Habibullah consistently changed Afghan policy to meet with either Russian or British wishes siding with the side that paid most. But in 1907 Russia and Britain signed a military pact which ended the Great Game and Habibullah’s fun.

 

In 1914 Britain and Russia went to war against the Central Powers and the Ottoman Empire soon joined the war against Britain and Russia. They called for Jihad (a holy war) against the allies demanding other Islamic countries join them but Afghanistan remained neutral throughout the war. On the 19th of February 1919 Habibullah was assassinated and his son, Amanullah Khan came to power. Amanullah promised full independence from Britain and so led a small force into India to attack the British. On the 3rd of May 1919 Afghan forces invaded India and took the town of Bagh. Consequently on the 6th of May Britain declared War on Afghanistan and with superior numbers and the use of the Royal Air Force, the British army had forced an Afghan retreat. On the 8th of August the third Anglo-Afghan war ended with a decisive British victory, having removed the invading forces from India. Afghan casualties of the conflict were approximately 1,000 killed in action while British and colonial casualties reaching 1,751 leading many calling the conflict a British strategic defeat. But of the 1,751 casualties 230 were killed in action, 600 wounded and the remainder dying from cholera and other illness. Regardless of who won the conflict Britain had grown weary of its affiliation with Afghanistan and on the 19th of August 1919 Afghanistan gained its independence.