Subtitle - From the Great Game to the Global
War on Terror, University of Kansas Press, 2017, 617 pgs., index, notes,
Reviewer comment -
This is a very important book that provides essential information and analysis
of the history of Afghanistan which is vitally needed today by everyone
concerned with recent and current events in that country. Very few Americans
(including those making government policy) have this essential understanding.
In this book the author provides so much detailed history that it is almost
overwhelming. The complex interactions of dozens of individuals, dozens of
clans, tribes, many external political agents; all shifting over time, requires
intensive study. Practically all the names the author identifies are unknown to
Americans. The names of battles, places, military units and irregular forces
are unknown. The extensive detail that author provides on the weapons used,
sizes of forces engaged, casualties, tactics, strategies, political objectives
are all mostly unknown. Yet they must be to enable rational evaluation of real
conditions and situations today. As an aid to the reader, I have attempted to
provide links to other sources such as encyclopedia articles to which the
reader may turn.
The author is exceptionally well qualified to write this important study. He is
a scholar, patriot, professinal military officer, diplomat, Senior government
official, teacher, author and historian. He personally participated in the
Afghan wars against the Soviet invaders and the struggle against the Taliban.
He is multi-lingual in all the primary sources for this history. He knows
personally many of the leading Afghan officials involved in the recent 40 years
of conflict there. The descriptions of events, personal motivations, official
policies and military operations all reflect his personal career experiences.
The maps are valuable for the reader's understanding.
The author's biography is here.
The reader is greeted with a summary of the entire book. "Military history
is virtually the history of Afghanistan". The remainder of the
introduction summarizes the truth of this statement. However, warfare serves a
purpose -it is a means rather than an end. Ambassador Jalali writes that the
nature and mode of warfare changes with the social, political, cultural and
economic environment in which it is waged. Above all it is influenced by the
beliefs of those who are waging it.
He writes: "The nature of the military forces that emerged and operated on
the Afghanistan political scene throughout history has been conditioned by the
makeup of the state-security relationship and the dynamics of projecting power
within a changing environment". And: "Thus, there were a variety of
military institutions created and nurtured by dynasties, empires, tribes, and
communities to achieve their distinctive goals and secure their particular
This book sets the author's detailed professional military descriptions and
evaluations of the numerous strategies, operational concepts and tactics
employed by an enormous variety of actors over 2000 years in the contexts of
these broader social/political environments, while also elucidating the
personal beliefs and objectives of the hundreds of individuals. He identifies
two different but complementary forms of warfare - regular (conducted mostly by
state agencies) and irregular (conducted by the people's natural political
agencies - tribes and clans). The two forms were employed frequently together
to create a "unique way of war". In this introduction he cites as
examples Shah Mahmud Hotak's victory over Safavid forces at Gulnabad in 1722,
and Ahmad Shah Durrani's victory over the Maratha army at Panipat in 1761.
Observant commentators have noted the effectiveness of the combination of
regular and irregular warfare by Afghan warriors. Most recently the Taliban
fighters have added explicit use of terrorism to their strategic, operational
and tactical playbook.
Still, the author summarizes, warfare in Afghanistan is conditioned by three
fundamental realities: the difficult geographic environment, the decentralized
sociopolitical human structure, and the "multiplicity of military
institutions within that decentralized population. The result is the extreme
difficulty of a centralized 'state' to monopolize power throughout its claimed
Chapter - 1 A Distinct Geography and a
Ambassador Jalali understands the critical importance of geography in general
and terrain in particular. Man lives and fights in a specific physical area of
land and water. Along with the terrain itself the soldier must consider climate
and weather, which are influenced by the geography. The author provides in this
chapter a detailed understanding of how the specific geography of Afghanistan
has determined so much of the nature of life and warfare conducted in this
region. Viewing the geography broadly, one sees that the extremely high and
rugged mountain chain across the center divides the landscape to inhibit a
power on one side from easy control over the other side and to enable
inhabitants of the valleys in the center to maintain significant independence.
While the lands to the north, west, and south merge with the adjacent external
regions, enabling outsiders to attempt to control at least those areas.
Chapter - 2 - Highlights of the Past: From
Antiquity to the Emergence of Modern Afghanistan in 1747
The history of Afghanistan spans millennia. To discuss it all at depth would
require several volumes. The likely interest of the reader today is on the 20th
and 21st centuries. But this is so much influenced by the events of the not so
recent past that the author is right to focus on modern Afghanistan since 1747.
Nevertheless the events that occurred during previous centuries have had impact
and do show the continuity of the nature of warfare over these centuries. The
author therefore compromises and describes the earlier military events in
sufficient detail to illustrate that continuity. In summary it shows the two
sided nature of near continual warfare there. On one side, the local
inhabitants divided by geography into local groups continue to fight each
(That is not surprising, the first Mesopotamian cities fought each other over
small plots of land. And the classical Greek cities continually fought each
other and so did the Renaissance Italian cities).
Occasionally the military resources of all or most of the Afghanistan area
could be unified to enable a central power to expand its control over
neighboring territories. Thus, for a time different Afghan rulers managed to
control much of Persia twice, and (more significantly) toward the end of the
period described in this chapter Afghan rulers managed to incorporate the
region now called Pakistan into their domain and even were involved in the
support of the Muslim empire at Delhi against the Hindu Maratha rulers from
But the location and geography of Afghanistan created another stream of
warfare. It lies in the central position between three neighboring regions in
which competition was conducted on a grander scale. And the rulers of all three
sought to control Afghanistan for their own benefit, or at least to prevent the
powers in the other regions from taking control. The author has selected enough
of the events and personages of the centuries of warfare to illustrate how,
while rulers and their powerful political organizations came and went, the
nature of their campaigns, strategies and tactics continued, only being
enhanced by developments in technology and religion.
Ambassador Jalali identifies: "three sets of constant struggle between
1 the struggle between migrating hordes and the natives;
2 the war of settled communities against the nomads;
3 the strife between the religion's followers and the unbelievers".
The author in 60 fact filled pages leads us on a whirlwind tour across this
battlefield - that is, Afghanistan, from the arrival of the Medes and Persians
to the entrance (reluctantly) of Afghanistan into the 'Great Game' about 1747.
Along the way we meet three world class conquerors; Alexander the Great,
Genghis Khan and Tamerlane; all three rampaging through Afghanistan, leaving
millions of dead in their wakes, without permanently annexing it into their
empires, along their way to India. Between these there were the Arabs, many
smaller scale fry who did not annex the region permanently politically but did
permanently change the population's religion and much of its culture. But they
too, moved on into Central Asia and northern India spreading the new faith. And
we witness an expansion of religious belief as a motivational factor itself
generating conflict: Zoroastrianism versus local tribal beliefs, Classical
Greek religious concepts versus Zoroastrianism, Islam versus Zoroastrianism,
Islam versus Buddhism, Islam versus Byzantine Orthodox Christianity, Islam
versus Sikhism and Hinduism. Sunni versus Shi'a Islam. Sunni and Shi'ite Islam
versus western materialism.
We visit fabled grand cities that were founded, became cultural as well as
political centers, were destroyed, rebuilt again and again; among them: Balkh
(which no longer exists), Margiana, Herat, Kandahar, Ghazni, and Kabul. These
remain, but also remain the scenes of continual local warfare. In addition to
'world conquerors' we met dozens of lesser lights, both individual Afghans and
outsiders and dynastic 'empires'. Including, Cyrus the Great, Darius I, Bessus,
Diodotus, Parthians, Sakas, Kushans, Ephthalites, Arabs, Turks, Kabul Shahis,
Zunbils, Rutbils, Abu-Muslim, Amir Yaqub Laith Safar, Barmakids, Tahir ibn
Hussein (Tahirids), Samanids, Saffarids, Ghaznavids, Ghorids, Khwarazmids, Amr
Laith, Alptigin, Sebuktigin, Sultan Mahmud, Gandhara, Alauddin Hussein,
Bahram-Shah, Ghiasuddin ibn Sam, Mu'izuddin Mohammad (known as Mohammad Ghori),
Shah-Rukh, Ulugh Beg, Babur Mirza, Safavids, Shah Abbas Safavi, Shah Suleiman
Safavi, Shah Sultan Hussein, Shaikh-ul-Islam Mohammad Baqer Majiisi, Abdali
Afghans, Mir Wais Khan, Shah Mahmud Hotak, Shah Ashraf, Nader Quli Afshar,
Ahmad Shah Durrani, and Timur Shah.
So we have witnessed the overture - 2000 years in 60 pages. We observed human
actions stemming from personal beliefs, but the actors had many and frequently
opposing beliefs. We are now ready to observe the coming main acts - 200 years
in 458 pages. The author's level of detail shifts dramatically - it is indeed a
drama (all the world is a stage). We read about different actors, and groups of
actors. But are they fundamentally the same or different when it comes to
motivations? What games are they playing? Human actions remain based on
motivations based on beliefs. The nature of the conflicts remain the same at
one level. Indigenous leaders and 'would-be leaders' are still striving to
dominate each other as they struggle to oppose external domination. But the
scale of the external domination has greatly expanded. Afghanistan was once the
battleground of 'world conquerors' whose motivations were personal and
relatively limited. Now Afghanistan has become a battleground of 'world powers'
whose motivations are corporate, institutional, bureaucratic and conducted on a
world wide scale.
Chapter - 3- The Great Game and the British
Invasion of Afghanistan 1809 - 1839
This is a great chapter describing the almost irrational beliefs of the British
in the possibilities of (first - Napoleon) and then Tsarist Russia in crossing
Afghanistan to conquer India. Belief generated action. The action began as
farce and turned into tragedy. As usual, we find the two sets of continual
struggle (domestic power wielders inside Afghanistan) and (external among the
personnel of the surrounding 'great' powers, Britian - British India, Persia.
Russia, Sikhs, Bukhara emirs) extremely complex in themselves but exponentially
escalated when the two sets are mixed into each other.
Consider domestic affairs in Afghanistan.
Structurally (institutional) there are at least the following: A would be
central government at Kabul, official government appointed territorial local
governors in several cities such as Kandahar, independent governors in such
places as Herat, tribal chieftains trying to dominate their own of many tribes
throughout the country, clan chieftains vying with their own tribal chieftains,
the tribes and clans disputing hegemony over territory with other tribes and
clans, religious leaders seeking to exert authority: Dozens of individuals
within each of the mentioned groups seeking to manipulate or over throw their
own official bosses. And many of these figures are dealing with or attempting
to deal with one or many simultaneously of the foreign powers.
Consider the foreign powers.
Britian - politicians of several competing parties plus 'advisors' adopting
changeable 'policies' with respect to Afghanistan to suit their own power -
governor generals and other British officials attempting to maintain British
control of India in the face of multiple indigenous rulers - Sikh. Sind, Mogul,
and Maratha rulers seeking to increase power. Plus a rebellion (Indian Mutiny)
and conflict between its own Muslim and Hindu units over the issue of using
'pig fat' anathema to the one - versus using cow fat (anathema for the other)
as the grease for rifle cartridges.
Imperial Russia seeking to expand control over the Central Asian khanates, and
expand influence in Persia while maintaining relationships with the other
European powers, especially Britain. And there were numerous individuals
competing with each other over making the policies to achieve these objectives.
Persia - the central ruler concerned to maintain his personal power - the
government defending Persia against Russia and Turkey to the west, while
seeking to expand into Afghanistan in the face of British power there.
The British main concern was Russian expansion. To counter it they sought to
establish 'friendly' buffer states in a defensive belt- Persia, Herat,
Kandahar, Kabul, Sikh Punjab and Sind. But the objectives of these independent
rulers were conflicting. The British solutions largely turned out to be
misguided or failures.
In 1809 Shah Shuja, ( a Durrani) the ruler at Kabul and nominal ruler of
Afghanistan was deposed by Shah Mahmud and exiled to India. Afghanistan
devolved into civil war. Shah Shuja attempted to regain his throne but was
defeated by Amir Dost Mohammad Khan (A Barakzai). From then on the British had
to seek support from one or the other or both at the same time. The British
also had to support Maharaja Ranjit Singh who ruled a powerful Sikh state and
army in Punjab in order both to protect its western border and defend against
the Marathas from southern India. But Ranjit Singh captured Peshawar and its
local area in 1834 and installed Sardar Sultan Mohammad (brother of, yet enemy
of, Dost Mohammad) as local satrap.. And Peshawar was the long time winter
capital of the Afghan rulers. Dost Mohammad's non-negotiable demand was return
of Peshawar. Meanwhile the Persians, now ruled by Mohammad Mirza Shah Qajar,
with Russian military assistance, besieged Herat in an effort to regain
Khorasan.-The British needed major Afghan participation to prevent Persian
control of Khorasan. Afghan 'central' government of Dost Mohammad would oppose
without return of Peshawar. Ranjit Singh would not agree to relinquish it. What
The British cabinet and Parliament was concerned about the Persians in
northwestern Afghanistan and the contention between the Kabul ruler and Ranjit
Singh. The Afghan princes were even more disunited. The British governor
general of India, George Eden, First Earl of Auckland, made his decision. The
British depended on the friendship of Ranjit Singh and the Sikhs than on Dost
Muhammad in Kabul. To obtain a pliable ruler in Kabul (and hopefully more) the
British would depose Dost Muhammad and instal Shah Shuja. And as a further
pretext they would mount a British expedition across southwestern Afghanistan
to remove the Persians from Herat and Khorasan. This required an all out
mobilization of available British forces in India - elements of both the Bombay
and Bengal Armies would assemble in Sind and advance through Quetta to Kandahar
and from there march north to Kabul while detaching a force to march northwest
to Herat. Both armies were composed of a mixture of British European units and
Indigenous units including Sikhs, Gurkhas, and others. Plus, Shah Shuja raised
a small army to accompany the main British forces, and the Sikhs commanded by
Prince Timur were to advance directly from Peshawar through the Kyber pass on
Kabul. Jalali comments that the "campaign plan violated many tested
military principles and was a high-risk venture".
Ambassador Jalali describes in detail down to the regimental level the
organization of the forces, the concept of operations, the very difficult
logistic problems, the few major battles (really only one) and continual
skirmishes as the British spent 10 months to reach Kabul. As always, he also
describes in detail all the Afghan forces, both regular army and iregular
tribal elements. He describes the weapons used on both sides. One very
interesting detail is his description of the Afghan locally made Jezail,
a powerful, long barreled, large caliber rifle that greatly out ranged the
British muskets. A factor that was to prove decisive.
Meanwhile the Persians had been defeated at Herat, in a siege which ended in
September 1838, that Jalali also describes in detail, eliminating one British
justification for invasion. But the campaign proceeded anyway, beginning with
initial movements of the two armies in November and December of 1838. Besides a
vivid narration of the events and individual performances, Jalali incisively
critiques strategic operational, tactical and logistic decisions and
Army of the Indus and Afghan Army
Professor Jalali describes both armies in detail. The British called up units
from both the Bengal and Bombay Armies including both British and Indian
infantry and cavalry regiments. Their initial strength Jalali gives as 30,000
combat troops plus thousands of rear area support and camp followers..
The Afghan armed forces consisted of both the Amir's regular army, units of
local governors and many tribal militia.
Kandahar was occupied without significant opposition. Shah Shuja entered on 8
May, 1839 and was crowned king. There was a major battle at Ghazni on 22 July
1839. Outside the fortress masses of local ghazis attacked from the
hillsides. the Amir Dost Mohammad attempted to block the British forces at
Arghandeh, south of Kabul. The British spies and agents enticed the Khostani
tribes north of Kabul to rebel. On 3 August Dost Mohammad Khan abandoned his
army and fled north through Bamian and on to Bukhara were he was held by its
emir. Thus the British arrived in Kabul with their puppet king, Shah Shuja.
They were not to last there for very long.
The author's summary: By the time they completed the initial campaign in
Afghanistan they had minimal losses in combat ( a few hundred) but thousands in
the support and camp followers. They lost about 30,000 camels and 1,500 horses
plus tons and tons of supplies along the way.
- Viscount Henry John Temple Palmerston, British Foreign Secretary
- George Eden, Earl of Auckland - British governor general
- Arthur Conolly - British intelligence officer
- Mohan Lal - intelligence officer and spy master
- Alexander Burnes - British explorer, advisor and political officer
- General John Keane - commander of the British force that captured Ghazni and
- Shah Shuja-ul-Mulk - replacement as king
- Timur Mirza - Shah Shuja's son, led Sikhs through Kyber Pass and then was his
choice as replacement governor of Kandahar
- Amir Dost Mohammad Khan -deposed ruler of Kabul
- Sardar Ghulam Haidar Khan - Dost's son and governor of Ghazni, captured in
- Maharaja Ranjit Singh - ruler of Sikh Punjab
- Sardar Akbar Khan - Dost's son, attempted to defend Khyber pass
- Fateh Ali Shah - ruler of Persia
- Mohammad Mirza Shah Qajar - his grand son and heir
- Muhammad Shah Qajar, ruler of Persia
- Shah Kamran - ruler of Herat
-Vizier Yar Mohammad Khan - vizier at Herat
- Sardar Mehrdil Khan - governor of Kandahar
- Sardar Abdul Rashid Khan governor in Ghazni
- Ghulam Khan Popalzai - raised forces in Kohistan
Persian Invasion and siege of Herat 1837 - final failed assault, 24 June 1838
Battle of Jamrud 30 April, 1837
between Maharaja Ranjit Singh and Emir Dost Muhammad Khan
Battle of Ghazni 22 July 1839- There were battles at Ghazni in 998, 1117, 1148,
1181, and 1839. This entry is for 1839, the battle described in this book.
There also are Wikipedia entries for the others.
Chapter - 4 - The First Anglo-Afghan War:
Occupation, Rebellion, Retreat, and Retribution, 1839- 1843
Here we witness that the British having arrived in Kabul and Kandahar in the
preceding chapter are driven out of Afghanistan. For those Americans who know
anything about Afghanistan, probably, the single image they have is of Dr.
Brydon limping to the walls of Jalalabad as the sole survivor of the British
garrison in Kabul. But that is but one incident in three years of complex
warfare on several separate fronts.
Dost Mohammad returned and led the Barakzai family princes in widespread
attacks to regain power. Shah Shuja continued his cruelty and atrocities
increasing the hatred of the population. He mostly remained holed up in the
Bala-Hissar fortress at Kabul and was eventually assassinated the moment he
ventured out. The British did not withdraw as much as they promised. The Bombay
Army did evacuate the country via Quetta. But the British stationed units of
the Bengal Army division, (some 8,000 combat troops and many camp followers) in
many cities, in effect occupying as much of the country as Shah Shuja nominally
controlled. The vast countryside remained under control of the multitude of
tribal chieftains. The British garrisons were large enough to incite ferocious
indigenous opposition to foreigners but much too small to act as anything but
sitting targets for revenge.
Professor Jalali describes the disposition of the British occupation forces in
detail, its units were garrisons in Kabul, Jalalabad, Ghazni, Kandahar,
Girishk, Qalat, and Quetta plus Gurkha detachments.
Amir Dost Mohammad Khan - driven from throne then exiled to India
Mir Masjidi Khan Mir, influential throughout, one leader of the insurrection in
Shah Shuja - returned to throne, then overthrown
Osman Khan Nizam-u-Dawlah, Vizier for Shah Shuja
Mohan Lal - organizer of spes
George Eden, Earl of Aukland, British viceroy of India
Edward Law, Earl of Ellenborough, replacement as British viceroy
William Macnaughten, Envoy and Minister to the court of Shah Shuja
Brig. General Sir Robert Henry Sale- original commander of British expedition -
led brigade that was departing Afghanistan in October 1841 held Jalalabad
during winter siege 1841-42
Major General William Elphinstone, took command of British forces in
Afghanistan in April 1841
Sir Alexander Burnes, British diplomat, killed in Kabul
General William Nott, British commander in occupied Kandahar
Nao Nehal Singh, successor to Ranjit Singh, ruler of Punjab
Akhtar Khan Alizai, leader of Durrani and Ghilzai tribes
Abdullah Khan Achakai ,leader of insurrection in Kabul and murder of Alexander
Kohistan Uprising, September - October, 1840 - again later
Battle around Bamian Pass, 17 September, 1840
Siege of Mir Masjidi's fort near Charikar, October 3, 1840
Battle of Parwan, November, 1840, Afghan victory
Attacks on British brigade of General Sale between Kabul and Gandamak in Oct.
Attack on Alexander Burnes in Kabul , 2 Nov. 1841
Assault on British Sia-Sang camp at Kabul in Nov. - Dec. 1841 -
Siege of Jalalabad 12 Nov 1841 - 13 April 1842
Disaster retreat of British from Kabul toward Jalalabad
Battle of Kabul, 1842
Chapter - 5 - Geopolitical Changes in Central
Asia Leading to the Second Anglo-Afghan War, 1842 - 1879
Amir Dost Mohammad Khan - had 27 sons - reunited Afghanistan, died 1863 during
successful siege of Herat
Vizier Yar Mohammad Khan Alkozai - self proclaimed ruler of Herat
Sayed Mohammad Khan - son of Yar, sided with
Mohammad Yusuf - Sadozai chief - ousted Sayed
Sardar Sultan Ahmas Khan - Dost nephew, hero of First Anglo-Afghan war - ruled
Herat 1857- 1863
Sardar Ghulam Haidar Khan - Dost son, defended Ghazni in First Anglo-Afghan
war, died early
Sardar Afzal Khan - Dost brother, governor of Turkistan - fought Shir Ali for
Abdur Rahman Khan, Afzal son - fought Shir Ali for throne
Sardar A'zam Khan, fought Shir Ali for throne and held it briefly
Sardar I'shaq Khan, son A'zam, fought Shir Ali, attacked Balkh 1869, but lost
Amir Sardar Shir Ali Khan, Dost 6th son, named successor 1863 - lost to
relatives, regained it in 1866
Sardar Ayub Khan, brother of Yaqub Khan, held Herat then fled to Persia
Kohendil Khan- ruler of Kandahar, died 1855
Nawab Zaman Khan
Sultan Ahmad Khan
Mohammad Shah Khan Babkar-Khil
Sardar Mohammad Akbar Khan - Dost son
Mir Afzal Khan gov. of Kandahar - then of Turkistan at Balkh - Dost son
Amir Yaqub Khan - Sher Ali son appointed regent by father, became heir - signed
treaty of Gandamak, 1879
Sardar Akram Khan - Dost 3rd son -sent 1850 to capture Balkh
Mir Nasir Khan Talpur, Amir of Sindh - lost battle of Miani 1843
Mohammed Jan, Afghan commander at battle of Kabul 1879
General Charles Napier - won battle and captured Sindh 1843
(Legend about "Peccavi"
Lt. Gen. Sam Browne, commander of British forces on Peshawar, Kyber - Kabul
Maj. General Frederick Roberts, British commander on invasion axis via Kunnar -
Piswar Khal Pass and battle of Kabul 1879
General Donald Stewart, commander of British forces to Kandahar
Major Pierre Cavagniac, British signer of Treaty of Gandamak, May 1879, then
envoy to Kabul July 1879
Professor Jalali describes these battles in detail.
Ali Masjid Fortress 1878 in front of the Khyber Passand
Piswar Kotal 1879 on the Kunnar Valley axis and here
There were 'monumental changes' in the generation after the First Anglo-Afghan
There were shifts of power inside Afghanistan and in external regions. The
situation created new 'conflicts and competitions' Afghanistan internally was
weak generating a struggle for power among the decentralized local rulers and
would be rulers and the tribal leaders. This was the same kind of struggle
during previous and subsequent conditions including after ouster of Taliban
Kokendil Khan returned from Persia to regain Kandahar
Vizier Yan Mohammud Khan murdered Shah Kamran in 1842 and ruled Herat.
Many heroes of the First war sought power and positions.
Amir Dost's son, Sardar Mohammud Akbar opposed his father.
Amir Dost raised and improved a new national army.
Persian influence and operations were against Herat in 1851 and 1856, with
Russian encouragement during Crimean war, 1853-56. The British forced Persians
out in 1857, but put Sardar Sultan Ahmad Khan as governor instead of Amir Dost.
Amir Dost campaigned to Herat and won siege but died in 1862.
Dost's son, Afzal Khan, ruled Turkistan from Balkh and also improved army. Dost
died in 1862, setting off a dynastic civil war. Designated heir, son Amir Shir
Ali ruled 1863 - ousted by relatives and returned in 1866 to rule until 1879.
He also improved the army.
Professor Jalali describes the army organization and its weapons in detail.
Meanwhile the British expanded their control and domain through Sikh territory
(2 wars - 1848 - 1849 Battle of Gujrat) to control Punjab and Sindh (campaign
1843, Battle of Miami) and Baluchistan; to the Afghan border.
Russians advanced from Orenburg clear to Bukhara. General Konstantin Kaufman
was conqueror and viceroy for Central Asia and attempted to increase Russian
power in Afghanistan.
The British has their last chance to influence Amir Shir Ali toward alliance in
1873 but Lord Lytton's attitude wrecked it.
(British attitude toward Indians was much like British commander's attitude
toward American colonists in 1750's)
In November 1879 the British demand to send envoy to Kabul was refused at
Khyber Pass. Lord Lytton decided on war and so did Amir Sher Ali.
Professor Jalali provides another detailed examination and analysis of the
organization, strength and weapons of the Afghan forces. His summary:
"Amir Sher Ali's army looked large on paper but it lacked sustainability
for fighting drawn-out battles."
British concept of Operations:
They would advance along three axes - north from Peshawar through Kyber Pass to
Kabul - middle through Kurran Valley and Piswar Kotal (Pass) - south from Sindh
via Quetta to Kandahar.
November 21 1879 attack strong Ali Masjid fort and reach Jalalabad by 20 Dec.
November 21 cross border on Kurran axis - Dec 1-2 defeat Afghan defenders at
Piswar Kotal (Pass).
General Donald Stewart reached Kandahar without resistance.
Amir Sher Ali Khan fled north to Afghan, border expecting aid from Russians
General Kaufman. He found he was betrayed and died on Feb 21, 1879 at Mazar -
i- Sharif. He appointed his son, Yaqub Khan as heir. Amir Yakub accepted the
very one sided British treaty of Gandamak in May 1879 which was signed for the
British by Major Pierre Cavagniac, who entered Kabul on 24 July.
This ended the first phase of the war and began the much more vicious second
Chapter - 6 -The Second Phase of
the Second Anglo-Afghan War 1879 - 1881
Amir Yaqub Khan
Sardar Ayub Khan, governor of Herat
Sardar Sher Ali, a member of the Kandahar Sardar families.
Sardar Abdur Rahman Khan- of the Dost Mohammad clan and son of Amir Afzal Khan
and cousin of Sher Ali
General Daud Shah - commander in Kabul
Lord Edward Bulwer Lyton, governor general of India
Lepel Griffin - British Foreign Service officer
Major General Bright - British commander Jalalabad
General Frederick Roberts
General Donald Stewart
Sardar Nek Mohammad Khan -tried to stop British advance at Chaharasis
General Mohammad Jan Khan - tried to attack British as they occupied Kabul
Mulllah Mushk-i-Alam - Religious leader of Afghan attacks on British
Battles: Professor Jalali describes these battles in detail, with size and
names of the units involved, the objectives and tactical plans of both side and
the results. For several he has detailed tactical maps. Some of the most
important or famous also have Wikipedia entries.
Insurrection in Kabul 1879
Battle of Chaharasis (Charasiab) 6 Oct 1879
Battle of Ali-Masjid 21 November. 1878
Battle of Futtehabad, 2 April 1879
Battle of Pinjar Kotal 1879 (chapter 5)
Battle of Chahar Dehl 1879
Siege of Sherpur cantonment 23 Dec., 1879 (Battle of Kabul)
Battle of Ahmad Khel 19 April, 1880
Battle of Maiwand 27, July 1880
Siege of Kandahar 1880, August 1880
Combat at Deh-Khuaja 16 August, 1880-
Battle of Kandahar 1 September, 1880
The British invaded Afghanistan in a rapid advance along 3 axes but did not
advance to Kabul.
Amir Sher Ali died and was succeeded by his son, Yaqub Khan.
On 24 May, 1879 the British and Afghans signed the one-sided Treaty of
The British began to withdraw toward Peshawar and returned Kandahar and
Jalalabad to Afghan government but with British residents.
Major Cavagnari was sent as official British envoy to Kabul.
Yaqub Khan appointed his brother, Sardar Ayub Khan as governor of Herat. He was
very strongly anti-British and sent 6 of his regiments to Kabul, where they
promptly caused trouble.
On 3 September, 1789 an anti-British riot in Kabul quickly expanded into a full
massacre of the British there including Major Cavagnari.
The British immediately decided to invade Afghanistan again and began
assembling forces under Major General Bright to capture Jalalabad, and Major
General Sir D. Stewart to retake Kandahar. A large force commanded by Major
General Sir. F Roberts was designated the Kabul Field Force to occupy Kabul.
Other troops remained to occupy Kurran Valley.
Amir Yaqub Khan went to ask General Roberts not to invade.
On 6 October General Roberts defeated the Afghan blocking force at
Sang-i-Nawishta and Chaharasia and occupied Bala-Hissar fortress at Kabul on 12
October. Whereupon Amir Yaqub Khan abdicated his rule and was soon exiled to
By December 1879 large masses of Afghan tribal forces were assembling to eject
the British from their camp at Sherpur outside Kabul. General Roberts decided
to attack these Afghan forces before they could unite, but his plan was
unrealistic and poorly executed. The result was a complex movement of separated
British units chasing Afghans through passes and valleys. He suffered tactical
defeat in a battle at Chahar-Dehi and was forced back into the Sherpur
The Afghans occupied Kabul and began the siege of Sherpur. The situation was
very similar to the siege of 1841, except the British had a larger and better
An Afghan massed attack on Sherpur took place on 23 December. General Charles
Gough's brigade from Jalalabad arrived the following day.
The British routed the Afghan besiegers and reoccupied Kabul. By March 1880
they were reorganizing and repositioning their units. The British force in
Kandahar was divided, with General Primrose commanding small Bombay Army
forces, remaining there, while General Stewart would move his regiments north
to reinforce the British at Kabul. The British believed Kandahar was in no
Stewart departed Kandahar on 8 April.
By 18 April Stewart's column was being followed and harassed by multi-tribal
forces along his route.
On 19 April Stewart decided to force a battle at Ahmad Khel, which he won.
On 21 April Stewart's forces reached Ghazni, where he had to fight and win over
another Afghan tribal force.
In May, Sardar Sher Ali was made governor of Kandahar.
On June 14th 1880 Griffin presented Lord Lyton's demands to Sardar Abdur Rahman
Khan describing the future relations of the Afghan government with the British.
On July 20th Abdur Rahman was made Amir in Kabul.
On 27 July Sardar Ayub Khan, marching from Herat to Kandahar, routed Brig.
General Burrows' outnumbered brigade at Maiwand northwest of Kandahar. The next
day Brig. General Brooke left Kandahar with a small relief force to rescue the
survivors of Maiwand. Then the British abandoned positions outside the strongly
fortified city and awaited the coming siege which began on 8 August.
On 16 August the British attempted a sally and were defeated at Deh-Khwaja.
The British in Kabul had planned on evacuating via direct marches east. But on
9 August General Roberts had to lead a strong force south, back to Kandahar. By
forced marches Roberts was approaching Kandahar by 18 August, when General
Primrose by dispatch informed him that Ayub Khan had lifted the siege and
established a defensive position north of the city. The combined British
commands now out numbered Ayub Khan's army.
On 1 September General Roberts attacked Ayub Khan's positions outside Kandahar
but the battle is generally named the Battle of Kandahar nevertheless. The
British routed the Afghans.
On 8 September the first British units departed Kandahar for India. The
remainder departed on 16 April 1881.
But in July 1881 Sardar Ayub Khan again attacked and captured Kandahar. Amir
Abdur Rahman Khan left Kabul and took command and defeated Ayub Khan on 22
September. Ayub Khan fled to Persia and then to British India.
Ambassador Jalali comments; There were continual raids, riots and ambushes but
only nine major tactical battles of which the Afghans won 3 and the British won
At operational level the British retained control over only the territories
they occupied, a small part of Afghanistan.
At the strategic level the British India government expanded its influence,
took control of the area between the Indus and Afghanistan mountain range to
secure a defensible western border, took control of Afghanistan foreign
relations. But at huge cost - nearly a disaster - The basic pre-war status quo
was retained. The financial cost was 20 million pounds sterling, There were
large loses including 50,000 casualties. Transportation means were disrupted
including loss of 90,000 camels.
Chapter - 7 - A Period of Uneasy Peace and
the Third Anglo-Afghan War, 1880 - 1919
Amir Abdur Rahman Khan - ruled from 1880 - 1901
Amir Habibullah, Abdur Rahman's son 1872 -1919 -assassinated
Sardar Nasrulllah Khan, Habibullah's brother, proclaimed himself Amir but
Amir Amanullah, Habibullah's younger son, became Amir, proclaimed independence
Ghulam Haidar, Afghan postmaster in Peshawar who instigated local efforts for
General Nader Khan, commander on the Khost front in greater Paktia province
General Saleh Mohammad Khan - his movements on Afghan frontier in 1919 led to
conflict, then commander on the Khyber front
Prime Minister Sardar Abdul Qodus Khan, commander on the Kandahar front
Lord George Nathaniel Curzon, British Governor General of India until 1905, he
reorganized the Afghan frontier, separating it from the Punjab, creating the
North West Frontier Province, which still influences local government in
British Viceroy, Viscount Frederic John Napier Thesiger Chelmsford
General Charles Munro, British commander in Chief in India during the Third
Sir George Roos-Keppel, British civilian chief Commissioner of the North west
Frontier province an expert on Pushtun affairs.
Summary of conditions: Professor Jalali describes these under the following
Pacification and Integration
The new Amir, Abdur Rahman Khan spent 12 years in defeating opponents and local
uprisings of which that of the Hazara was the worst.
Abdur Rahman's main effort was the define Afghanistan's borders with India and
Russian Central Asia. The British forced the Russians back and established the
border. In 1891 the border with Persia was established. The Wakhan Corridor was
created to separate Russian Tajikistan and establish a border with China. But
the border - Durand Line - was never accepted by Afghanistan. It divided the
Pushtun tribes and placed many mountains and valleys into India - now Pakistan.
Abdur Rahman annexed (non- Muslim) Kafiristan in 1895.
Rebuilding the Army
Abdur Rahman rebuilt the Afghan central government army as the military force
needed to create a unified Afghanistan. He had British assistance. Professor
Jalali describes the process in detail
The Development of Afghan Nationalism
Amir Habibullah sought national modernization, which accompanied increased
popular conceptions of nationalism . This was influenced by similar ideas in
India and the world-wide effects of the First World War. Meanwhile Russia and
Great Britain settled their competition in Central Asia - Afghanistan - Tibet -
India. The entry of Muslim Turkey on the German side increased Muslim thought
throughout the region for self-determination.
Amir Amanullah and the Declaration of Independence
Upon his replacement of his brother, Habibullah, Amanullah vented his
anti-British views and considered independence a part of general modernization
and national improvement. He decided to take advantage of the changing world
scene, the increased Muslim fervor and anti-British movements in India. The
immediate event was a British attack on Sikhs at Amritsar. Amanullah mobilized
troops and sent them toward the border, but gave strict orders not to cause any
reaction from the British.
Tension Increases on the Border
Despite Amanullah's orders Afghan commanders by 2 and 3 May had caused
reactions. Afghan troops occupied strategic Bagh village and Kafir Kot ridge,
but failed to advance to take Landi Kotal. The immediate British reaction that
drove the Afghan units out of Bagh forestalled greater Afghan offensive and
resulted in the various tribes on the British side of the Durand line to remain
passive. The British also rapidly forestalled a planned Afghan- Muslim uprising
in Peshawar. On 6 May the British declared war on Afghanistan.
The Third Anglo-Afghan War
Professor Jalali describes this war as significantly different from the first
two in terms of its political content, purposes, dimensions in time and space,
violence and outcome. It was limited to operations along the border, lasted
only a month, but did end British interference in Afghan foreign affairs. Also,
the first two wars were results of the British- Russian competition to gain
control of Afghan territory in opposition to each other. The Third war was due
to British concern about revolts of the Pushtun tribes along the border that
might increase the independence movements in India.
The Opposing Military Forces
Again, Professor Jalali describes the forces of both opponents in great detail,
stressing his military appraisal of their strengths and weaknesses. He includes
not only order of battle but also specifics about the weapons held by both
sides, including the British aircraft.
The Afghan Aim of War and the Campaign Plan
The author identifies Amanullah's objective as obtaining Afghan independence.
His strategic campaign plan had three coordinated actions: simultaneous attacks
by regular and tribal forces at six points along the border; create an uprising
of the Pushtun tribes on the British side and riots in India; and expected
mutiny of Indian (especially Muslim) regiments. The shift of military defense
of the Afghan border by Lord Curzon - removal of all British units and creation
of organized local Pushtun units such as the famous Khyber Rifles and Chitral
Scouts - placed success by each side on the defection or loyalty of the Pushtun
tribes in the event of an Afghan invasion.
The British Campaign Plan
The British exercised economy of force, offensive, and mission - they would
attack on the Khyber axis (that directly threatened Kabul), while maintaining
defensive on the other axes. The immediate objective would be Jalalabad. With
General Charles Munro acting as commander in chief from HQs at Simla, the North
West Frontier force, commanded by General Sir Arthur Barrett, would advance,
while the Baluchistan force, commanded by Lt. General R. Wapshire, would hold
that wide sector. Professor Jalali describes the units and equipment that
comprised each force.
Operation on the Khyber Line
Professor Jalali describes in detail the terrain, disposition of units and
tactical movements from 6 - 9 May around Landi Kotal and Bagh, which constitute
the first battle of Bagh, a local British setback against entrenched Afghan
regulars and swarms of local tribesmen. Note that while the local Afghan tribes
(but so far not the Afridis) but (including elements of the Khyber Rifles)
joined the Afghan regulars, the British Indian Army regiments there were Sikhs
and Gurkhas, no friends of the Afghans.
The Second Battle of Bagh and Advance to Dakka
Recognizing that delay would encourage more local tribes to revolt, General
Fowler renewed attacks on 11 May. Jalali provides an excellent tactical diagram
map of the actions. His tactical plan was to push the Afghan right flank and
then roll up their entire position. The British were entirely successful,
forcing the Afghans to retreat after incurring significant casualties.
Realizing that this tactical victory should be rapidly expanded to forestall
more local tribal uprisings, the British quickly advanced to seize Dakka, which
they secured by 16 May.
On 15 May Amanullah declared Jihad war to drive the British out. More
regular units and experienced generals were dispatched to Jalalabad.
The British suffered from continual Afghan attacks on the Dakka camp, but the
Afghans failed to launch sufficient attacks that would have overwhelm the
isolated British units. Meanwhile attacks along the Khyber Pass route forced
the British to deploy two more divisions to hold it open and keep the Afridi
Peshawar itself was becoming increasingly vulnerable.
The British air forces expanded bombing to Jalalabad and Kabul.
The uprising of the tribes in Waziristan (the same area that supports the
Taliban today) forces the British to expand strategic operations.
The Chitral Front
The Afghans launched an offensive into Chitral in May, expecting to be joined
by the local tribes. They apparently did not understand that the Mehtar (ruler)
there was firmly a supporter of the British who had enabled him to seize his
family Throne. But quick British actions and their retention of local tribes
enabled them to drive the Afghans back on 23 May. (see links below)
The Kurram Front
General Mohammad Nader's mission was pass through the Kurram valley to stir up
the Waziristan tribes to attack the British. He reached Gardez in April where
is proceeded to organize the local tribes for the campaign and send agents into
Waziristan. In May he and his two brothers advanced along three separate
routes. The British defense was commanded by General Eustace. Professor Jalali
describes the deployments of both sides in detail. The British were spread
rather thin along the mountainous border. Many of the Wazir tribal warriors
joined the Afghans. The main Afghan attack centered on the British frontier
fort at Thal, located on the Kurram River at its confluence with the Sangroba
and Ishkalai Nala rivers.
Thus came the Battle of Thal in 27 May - 2 June 1919. Professor Jalali
describes this, again, in great detail with a tactical battle map. It was a
siege of the Thal fort and battle between the Afghan attackers and the British
relief force, which was in the process of driving General Muhammad Nader's
forces back when Nader received an order from Amanullah to cease operations and
withdraw due to the operation of an armistice. Meanwhile other Wazir and Mahsud
tribes had begun operations throughout a wide area forcing small British
detachments and posts to withdraw.
The Southern Front
The Afghan campaign from Kandahar into Baluchistan and southern Waziristan had
the same objective - to raise tribes to Jihad against the British. But Sardar
Abdul Qodus Khan was late in reaching Kandahar from Kabul and in beginning an
offensive, so was preempted by the British launch of their operations in May.
General Wapshare's plan of operations was to concentrate on capture of the
powerful Afghan fortress at Spin Boldak key to the road to Kandahar. Again,
Professor Jalali provides a detailed analysis of the local terrain and then of
the order of battle on both sides and their weapons - and a tactical map. The
British scored a victory con 27 May. Sardar Abdul Qodus Khan did not reach
Kandahar until 31 May..
The Peace Agreement
The cease fire agreement became official on 3 June 1919. Amanullah realized
that British air power as well as insufficient support for the Afghans in India
made an end to fighting necessary. The British realized that continuing
military campaigns would expand and increase the anti-British uprisings of the
Pashtun tribes and might spread even into India. Amanullah, however, would not
compromise on his insistence at complete Afghan independence. The peace
conference began on 26 July. he new Treaty was signed on 8 August.
The Tribal Fallout
Despite the official peace treaty, the many tribes along the border, that had
been goaded into action by the Afghan agents remained at guerilla war for
months. And their military strength was a worse opponent for the British than
the regular Afghan army.
The Outcome and Lessons Learned
The Rawalpindi Treaty of 8 August marked the official independence day for
Afghanistan. Professor Jalali analyzes the war and its results. He considers
Amanulllah's broad strategic plan to have been excellent, but its execution was
faulty, disorganized, lacking of central direction. He notes that despite the
war lasting only a month or so, the size of the combat forces in the field was
much greater than in the preceding wars which each lasted over 2 years.
The British battles are described in the article on the Third Anglo-Afghan War
Battle at Punjdeh with Russian invaders, 30 March 1885
Battle of Ghilzai uprising 1886-87
Sardar Ishaq Kahn rebellion 1888
Hazara revolt 1888-91
First and Second Battles of Bagh, 6-10 May, 1919
Battle of Thal, May 27 - June 2, 1919
British Attack on Spin Boldak, 27 May, 1919
And there were many smaller or local revolts.
Chapter - 8 - Afghanistan under King
Amanullah and the Civil War, 1919 - 1929
Shah Babibullah Kalakami, overthrew Amamullah and ruled briefly
General Mohammad Nader Khan, Afghan commander at battle of Thal, led military
overthrow of Babibullah
Shah Mahmud Khan, governor of Jalalabad, raised tribes against Babibullah
Ghulam Nabi Khan, led brief invasion from Russian Central Asia to
Sayed Hussein, commanded Afghan forces to expel Soviet invasion
The Third Anglo-Afghan War left Afghanistan broke. King Amanullah had to
enforce austerity measures, while increasing taxation. The government also
began issuing paper money, which of course depreciated.
In 1920 a team of Turkish military instructors led by Jamal Pasha arrived to
teach army modernization. He was frustrated and departed in 1921, but his new
army organizational structure remained.
Imperial Russia efforts to gain influence in Afghanistan were replaced by
Soviet ideological efforts.
King Amamullah's foreign policy was to balance off Soviet Russia and Great
Britain. Professor Jalali describes the years of diplomatic shifts in detail.
King Amanullah's strong efforts at modernizing Afghan society drew opposition
and a major uprising at Khost in 1924.
In 1927 the king and queen visited many west European countries.
At the same time King Amanullah's foreign policy included continual efforts to
incite the border tribes including in Waziristan to rebel against the British.
He pursued a strong pan-Islamic and anti-British policy.
Upon their return they renewed efforts at Westernization which generated
renewed opposition and rebellion in 1928. The king also softened his
Encouraged and supported by religious leaders a former soldier, Habibullah, led
a major armed attack on Kabul in 1929.
King Amanullah abdicated and retired to Kandahar.
Habibullah Kalakani captured Kabul and proclaimed himself Amir. He remained in
fragile power for 9 months.
In 1929 Amanullah attempted to regain his throne by marching from Kandahar, but
was stopped at Ghazni by the Ghilzai tribe warriors. He gave up and eventually
moved to Italy.
As usual, with the King gone, civil war again erupted. In 1929 Nader Khan,
General Mohammad Nader Khan, his brothers, Shah Manmud Khan, and still others
raised tribes to overthrow Habibullah. The struggle went back and forth with
alternate successes and failures. Eventually Habibullah was captured and
executed and Nader Khan was proclaimed king.
Chapter - 9 - The Cold War and the Soviet
Invasion, 1929 - 1979
In this chapter the detail really becomes extensive and overwhelming. The
author was personally involved at the highest levels in the Afghan government
and military. The previous chapters described the background. This and
following chapters is the foreground. The infighting between individuals and
political or ethnic or tribal groups follows the historical pattern. The
external political players continue to seek to control Afghanistan. The stakes
the external players consider critical become much greater than those in the
'great game' of the 19th century. The technological tools are much more
powerful. It is not practical in this brief overview essay to discuss all this
detail. But by now the reader, hopefully, will realize that he should study it
Abdul Rahman Taraki - attempted uprisings
Ghulam Nabi Khan Charkhi and his brothers, continued supporters of Amanullah
Mohammad Zahir Shah, son and heir of Nader Shah
Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan - led coup against King Zahir Shah
Burhanuddin Rabbani founder of Jamiat-i-Islami, professor at university
Gulboddin Hekmatyar, founder of Sazman-i-Jawanan-i-musulman at university
Nur Mohammad Taraki - leader of Afghan Communist Party, PDPA, Khalq group
Hafizullah Amin - help organize the coup against Daud Khan in 1977 - killed by
Soviet special troops during coup
Babrak Karmal - deputy leader of PDPA, leader of Parcham Communist group - then
Soviet puppet ruler
Ahmad Shah Massoud - northern leader
Events: There were continual uprisings by various tribal groups including the
Kalakani who lived close by north of Kabul.
In 1932 Nader Shah proclaimed a new policy plan that retained Islam as the
basis of law but encouraged diplomatic and commercial modernization.
He signed a new treaty with the Soviet Union.
He managed to restore peace within the country.
But he continually faced opposition from supporters of King Amamullah who
expected Nader Shah to restore the King.
He faced opposition also from both conservatives and liberals who believed he
was either doing too much or not enough modernization. In November 1932 Nader
Khan had Ghulam Charkhi beaten to death. Result was that in November 1933 a
student Charkhi supporter killed Nader Shah.
Professor Jalali identifies the main trends during the long reign of Mohammad
Rebuilding the armed forces to crush internal opposition;
the partition of India created Pakistan as a neighbor;
the influence of the Cold War.
The Modernization of the Afghan Army
Professor Jalali describes this process in great detail
Indian Partition and the Issue of Pashtunistan
The creation of a separate, Muslim, Pakistan split from India brought the long
festering issue of the Durand Line to the fore. The line had arbitrarily
divided the dominant Pashtun tribes in half. The referendum that was held to
let people vote, only provided two options - either join Hindu majority India
or Muslim Pakistan. Uniting into Afghanistan was not an option. Of course
Afghanistan protested but was ignored by Britian and the United States. Both
had much larger, world-wide, objectives. The United States also refused
numerous Afghan appeals to buy arms from the U.S/. Naturally the Soviet Union
jumped at the opportunity.
Soviet Military Penetration
The Cold War and Sociopolitical Changes
The 1973 Coup and the End of the Afghanistan Constitutional Monarchy
In July 1973 Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan led coup against his cousin, King Zahir
Shah. The Communist groups quickly gained power and expanded influence with
Soviet Union. By 1977 Daud was attempting to remove Soviet influence.
The April Coup: The Sawr Revolution
On 17 April 1978 the Khalq faction of the PDPA led an uprising by Afghan army
and air force officers and coup against Daud. Hafizullah Amin was local leader
who issued final order. Nur Mohammad Taraki was declared head of the new
Revolutionary Council and prime minister Hafizullah Amin became Foreign
The Communists' Rule
The small Communist group lacked any support in Afghan society. They soon faced
opposition and uprising. This led to extensive arrests and executions. In March
1979 the city population of Herat revolted along with a army infantry division.
Thousands died in the subsequent Communist government regaining the city.
Taraki urged the Soviet government to send troops to his aid. The Soviet
leaders were dismayed and reluctant to intervene. But by 1979 they decided that
something had to be done and began preparations to send in army units. A KGB
unit was dispatched. Uprisings continued throughout the country, including by
regular army units. Hafizullah Amin was the main official conducting the most
violent government retaliations. In summer of 1979 Amin was plotting against
Taraki, of which the KGB warned Taraki. But in September Amin succeeded in
ousting Taraki and having himself appointed chairman. Taraki was murdered. The
Soviet Politburo decided that intervention was necessary to remove Amin and
replace him with Babrak Karmal.
The Plan for the Regime Change
The Politburo initially planned to remove Amin quietly, without a large Soviet
military intervention. But the KGB plan failed and the Soviet military insisted
that much more forces would be needed.
Decision for Military Invasion
Professor Jalali describes the planning and execution of this operation in
great detail. He provides excellent tactical maps.
Operation Storm 333
And so the operation was executed. Amin was poisoned, but survived long enough
to be executed by KGB special troops. Simultaneously the Soviet 40th army
divisions and brigades crossed the Amu Darya and occupied their assigned
assembly areas. They learned that their war had just begun. As the British had
learned three times during the previous century.
Chapter - 10 - Soviet Occupation and the War
of Resistance, 1979 - 1989
Professor Jalali uses Soviet, Afghan and western sources for a comprehensive
analysis of the conflict from detailed tactical actions to high level political
and international policies. He opens the chapter with a very interesting
appraisal of the Soviet concept and objective. The main Politburo leaders did
not want to get involved in Afghanistan. But they believed that the problem was
the failure of the Afghan leadership, especially Hafizullah Amin who was
alienating the public with draconian reprisals. Their plan was the remove him
and replace him with Babrak Karmal, whom they believed they could manage.
Previous efforts by the KGB alone had proven failures and the military claimed
that a powerful, but brief, appearance by Soviet troops could pacify opposition
quickly and then withdraw. They over estimated the level of popular approval
the Afghan Communists had in the country and under estimated the level of
military resistance the rural Afghan society could muster. They very soon found
out they had been wrong on both counts.
Hafizulla Amin - Communist party factional leader who had seized power
Babrak Karmal - Soviet selected ruler to replace Amin, and then also replaced
General Alexander Maiorov, chief Soviet military advisor
General Gromov - final Soviet commander
Mikhail Gorbachev -Soviet Premier
Najibullah- replaced Karmal as leader of PDPA and government as President
Amad Shah Massoud - leader of northern Mujahedin forces
Gulboddin Hekmatyar - founder of Hezb-e Islami radical group
Burhanuddin Rabbani - leader of Jamiat-e Islami
Mawlawi Yunus Khales - leader of Hezb-e-Islami Khales
Abdur Rab Rasoul Sayaf - leader of Etihad-e-Islami
Phases of the War
-1- December 1979 - Feb. 1980 - Soviet invasion and executed security
- 2 March 1980 April 1985 - Combined major military operations
- 3 April 1985 - April 1986 - Soviet force at largest strength - 'year of
decision' in which they attempted win
- 4 May 1986 - Feb. 15, 1989 - Soviet leaders established a new Afghan
government and attempted a political solution then withdrew the Soviet forces.
The Political and Geopolitical Conduct of the War
The Asymmetric Conflict and Ways of War
The Foundation of the Afghan Resistance
Mujahedin Tactical Operations
The Soviet Miliary Operations
Examples of Major Combined Operations - 1980-89, Part 1: Military Operations in
the Panjsher Valley
Examples of Major Combined Operations - 1980-89 Part 2: Offensive Operations on
the Zhawar Base
Examples of Major Combined Operations - 1980-89 Part 3: Operation Magistral
Professor Jalali writes: The war created tremendous losses for both sides.
Soviet casualties were 14,453 dead, 53,753 wounded, 415,932 sick plus missing.
And he lists huge materiel losses.
Afghanistan losses included 1.2 to 1.5 million civilians dead, 5 million
refugees and 2 million internal displaced. The war also destroyed the
infrastructure including water system, many government buildings, social
disruptions, subsequent civil war.
He writes: "No war in the past had ever caused so much social change in
Afghanistan - it ripped society apart vertically and horizontally." And:
"The war left no party untouched." The war led to the break up of the
Soviet Union. And the war also led to the "mentality of Jihad,
which motivated a world wide terrorist network centered in war-devastated
Chapter - 11 -The Civil War and the Rise of
the Taliban, 1989 - 2001
Professor Jalali summarizes: 'The Soviet withdrawal and the end of the military
occupation of Afghanistan did not end the war. The war merely entered into a
different stage, as the Kremlin continued to supply and support the
Moscow-backed government in Kabul while the Mujahedin's Western backers kept
open the pipeline of weapons and money flowing to the resistance forces.' In
this chapter he provides detailed information about events, personalities,
political plans and objectives as well as numbers of weapons and military
Najibullah - Soviet backed president and leader of the Parcham wing of the
Shahnawaz Tanai - defense minister and leader of the Khalq wing of the
Abdul Ali Maari - leader of the unified Shi'a political groups
Pakistani General Hamid Gul - encouraged the premature attack on Jalalabad in
Gulboddin Hekmatyar - leader of Hezb-i-Islami - continued his independent
efforts to obtasin power.
Ahmad Shah Massoud - leader of Tajik Mujahedin forces in north, while also
Abdul Ali Mazari - Hazara leader of Shi'a Hezb-e Wahdat - killed by Taliban in
General Rashid Dostum - Uzbek commander of military forces in nothern
Burhanuddin Rabbani - emerged in 1992 to act as interum government leader -
invited OBL to Afghanistan
Ismail Khan - controlled Herat during this period
Mullah Mohammad Omar - former Mujahedin and religious leader who was selected
by Talibs as their leader in 1994.
Mawlana Fazi Rahman - fundamentalist leader of Jamiat-i-Ulema-e Islam who gave
significant support to initial Taliban campaign.
Osama bin Laden - leader of al-Qaeda moved to Jalalabad in 1996.
The Najibullah government continued to attempt to discredit the Mujahedin. It
also greatly expanded the Afghan armed forces with a greater amount of
The Mujahedin continued to attempt to overthrow Najibullah, but was split into
The Najibullah government continued its internal conflict between the Khalq and
The Pakistan government continued to seek its own objectives by support of
certain Mujahedin groups, especially Hekmatyer.
Iran sought to increase the influence of Shi'a parties.
In 1990 Tanai and Hekmatyer attempted a joint coup to overthrow Najibullah
In 1990 US President George Bush and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev reached
some agreement about future conditions in Afghnistan, but it was another year
before much was accomplished. But by 1992 the Soviet agreement and loss of
power and American focus on Iraq resulted in American loss of interest in
In 1991 the Iranian and Pakistani foreign ministers reached an agreement on
sharing power. Pakistan continued to arm the Hekmatyr and Sayaf forces.
In 1992 Tajik Ahmad Shah Massud, Uzbek General Rashid Dostum, and Iranian
backed Abdul Ali Mazari formed the Northern Alliance. When Najibullah resigned
and attempted to fly to India he was apprehended at the airport and forced to
remain at the UN headquarters.
The Northern Alliance rapidly captured Kabul, thwarting Hekmatyer's efforts.
Hekmatyer then his continual opposition by beginning to shell the city with
rockets. He continued to attack the new overnment in Kabul.
Professor Jalali observes that both government and armed forces then collapsed.
As usual all the factions began struggling for power. A temporary agreement was
reached in April establishing a brief administation by Sebghatullah Mujaddedi
followed by another, longer, but interum administration led by Burhanuddin
Rabbani. But Hekmatyer continued to wage civil war against the government.
Mujahedin groups fought each other throughout the country.
In 1993 neignbor countries obtained an agreement by which Rabbani would be
president and Hekmatyar would be prime minister for a year and other groups
would receive various cabinet offices. But the fighting continued.
In 1994 Dostum, Hekmatyar, Wahad and Mujaddedi joined in a failed attempt to
defeat Rabbani and Massoud and capture Kabul. The civil war expanded from
personal power struggles, ideological differences, religious differences to
include ethnic conflicts as well.
Professor Jalali's appraisal: "The trend defied classic norms of warfare
and widely accepted military concepts. Instead of war being a 'continuation of
politics by other means'; militarized politics was an extension of war through
The Battle of Jalalabad
Soon after the Soviet withdrawal, in Marck 1989, some Mujahedin elements with
Pakistani support attempted a premature conventional attack on Jalalabad and
were badly defeated. Professor Jalali describes the battle and results in
The Regional Actors
Pakistan continued throughout to interfer in Afghanistan for its own strategic
purposes - namely confrontation with India. It set various Mujahedin factions
aginst each other and favored those that were Islamists supported by its
military, such as Hekmatyar.
Iran was trying to secure its own rear border but did not follow a systematic
The Rise of the Taliban
Professor Jalali provides a full description of the origin and initial purposes
of this movement. It was formed by former Mujahedin leaders studying in
Pakistan in 1994 with the objective of clearing the various criminal and
factional elements out of Kandahar. He notes that the reality is a mixture of
genuine Afghan religious students wanting to eliminate crime and oppression in
Kandahar and a planned recruitment by Pakistani ISI to enable it to gain
greater influence in Afghanistan. Pakistan was getting tired of supporting
Hekmatyar in all his repeated failures to win.
In October 1994 the Taliban members with considerable support by Pakistani ISI
drove the Hekmatyar units out of Spin Boldak, thus opening the road route
between Kandahar and Pakistan for Pakistani commerce. This victory set the
Taliban on its way to power and was a major change in the civil war.
The expansion of the Taliban
The puritanical Sunni movement gained popular support by its ouster of the
corrupt, gangster elements from Kandhar and then by 4 years gained control of
90% of the country. They also had support from the Pashtuns who felt their loss
of power to the Tajik lead Northern Alliance. And they had strong support from
Pakistani intellige4nce officers, Saudi Arabia and Arab fundamentalist
fighters. They captured Kabul in 1996. This generated a reaction by the Tajiks,
Uzbeks and Shi'a groups. And their puritanical version of Islam - supported
mostly by rural Pashtuns - was not so popular in the major cities. In early
1996 Osama bin Laden arrived, bringing more fundamentalist Arab fighters. He
declared war on the United States in August 1996. He helped finance the Taliban
and opened training camps. At the same time the Taliban power generated rifts
in the Pakistan- Iran efforts to establish peace -of course on their own turms.
Both Aghan sides then had foreign backing.
The question of constructing a pipe line from Turkistan across Afghanistan
generated more controversy. In 1998 the U.S. sruck Msama's camps with cruise
The Iran-Taliban Standoff
In August 1998 the Taliban recaptured Mazar-i-Sharif. They were accused of
massacring thousands of Shi'a Hazara civilians in the process, as well as some
Iranians. This generated increased Iranian military preparations. But actual
military intervention was impractical. The overall situation was that the
Taliban, by its own extreme actions created its own international and domestic
A Military Review of the Conflict
In this section Professor Jalali provides a military analysis of the strengths
and weaknesses of the contending opponents in the continuing civil was - the
Taliban versus the Northern Alliance (1996-2001). The size of the forces
available for combat varied. Professor Jalali estimates that the Taliban had a
base of 25,000 that could expand to 40,000. The unitedFront had 12,000 to
15,000 on its main axis to the south near Kabul and another 10,000 in the
The Pashtun Taliban, led by Amir-ul-Momenin Mullah Mohammad Omar, controlled
most of the territory but the United front, led by Rabbani and Ahmad Shah
Massoud, maintained control not only in the far north, but even on the Salang
tunnel highway near Kabul. He points out that the official government
established army had disintegrated . And neither of the contending sides had
institutions capable of organizing a national government.
The Taliban militia units varied widely in composition, quality, experience,
loyalty and effectiveness. Both sides did have some elite militia units they
could operate under command of experienced veterans whose names designated the
unit. The Taliban began conscription. Pakistin supplied religious
fundamentalists and There were similar volunteers from Arab countries, Kashmir,
Caucasus, Tajikistan and China. Meanwhile Taliban controlled Afghanistan became
a training groud for OBL's international terrorist network.
The United Front military was also a mixture of various armed groups. But its
main force was the highly trained and well orgqanized army created by Ahmad
Diverging Operational Concepts
Professor Jalali describes Ahmad Shah Massoud's concept of opertations as
guerrilla war - a war of attrition, in which he relied on movement and
He describes the Taliban operations as rapid strikes by troops mounted in
pickup trucks. And in preparation of the battlefield by political measures.
Their light forces were not effective in ruggen mountainous areas. They were
ideologically motivated but poorly trained and vulnerble to counterattack.
He describes the Taliban offensive in summer 1999 north of Kabul as well planed
but poorly executed in 5 days as it did gain considerable territory. But it
then they lost almost all that gain in a 6v hour counter offensive by Massoud's
well planned counter attack.
The Unconventional Use of Conventional Weapons
In tis section Professor Jalali decribes in great detail the many different
weapons used by either side, from Kalashnikov rifles to tanks, rockets,
helicopters and fixed wing aircraft. He notes the general failure to use the
weapons effecively, but also the clever modifications they sometimes made to
enable effectieness in the difficult terrain. He notes the general poor
The Decline of the Taliban
The author notes that the Taliban lost much of the civilian support that it had
relied on in its early years because the population concluded that it had not
lived up to their expectations. Actually, they became unpopular. Their harsh
treatment of Tajikis and Hazarasand extreme fanatical fundamentaslist
conception of Islam alienated many modern oriented Afghans. Their reliance on
pakistanis and the al-Quada terrorists generated foreign opposition. The wanton
destruction of the Bddhist statues at Bamian generated international outrage.
Their initial support of poppy -drug - production also was a public relations
In September 2001 two al-Quada terrorists assassinated Ahmad Massoud. Professor
Jalali, who was the Minister of Interior of Afghanistan from 2003 -2005, states
that he conducted the subsequent investigation that remained inconclusive as to
the otiations for this attack. But no doubt it proved detrimental because it
the combinerd Northern Alliance and American offensive campaign quickly
defeated both the Taliban and al-Quada.
Chapter - 12 -The US Invasion, the Fall of
the Taliban, and the Bonn Process 2001 - 2005
The chapter is a detailed 'blow - by- blow' examination with maps from the
initial American operation which defeated the Taliban up to the conclusion of
the Bonn Process efforts to defeat the resurgent Taliban. Professor Jalali was
personally involved -and has written much about this. It should be required
reading for anyone involved in Afghanistan today.
This is in the following topics:
The War Strategy
The Campaign Plan
The Main War Fronts
Diversionary Raids on Kandahar
The Battle for Mazar-i-Sharif
The Battle of Kabul
The Battle of Kanduz
The War in the South
The Battle of Tora Bora
The Bonn Conference
The Battle of Shahikot - Operation Anaconda
The Bumpy Road to Peace.
The structure of the previous chapters has been to describe the events and
participants in some detail and then to analyze and critique them. The
structure of this concluding chapter reverses this method - The theme is the
analysis and critique of events and policies since the start of the American
intervention and supply suitable examples of events and personalities to
illustrate. The author of course was a direct participant himself in activities
during much of this period.
The chapter is a devastating critique of the failures of both the U.S.
Government and the Afghan Government to build on the initial defeat of the
Taliban and expulsion of al-Qaeda from the country.
Professor Jalali opens with a note that the initial American intervention, in
contrast with every previous 'invasion' by foreigners, was greeted with huge
friendship and great hopes that it would succeed not only in expelling the
enemies but also bring permanent peace and prosperity to the nation. By then
the country was experiencing a disaster in all aspects of life. However, as he
points out, the American intervention was rather an historical accident due
solely to the coincidence that the perpetrators of the 9/11 attack on New York
were based in Afghanistan.
He continues: "The euphoria, however, did not last long, as the foreign
aid failed to live up to the people's expectations in spite of some major
changes in the country."
He lists four causes for the subsequent deterioration.
nation building on the cheap;
tactics without strategy;
a failure to integrate domestic authority structures;
competing regional actors.
He narrates, describes and evaluates the events, efforts, and results in the
The Afghanistan Compact
Major Counterinsurgency Operations
2008: The Moment of Truth
The Military Surge and the Exit Strategy
The Policy Debate
I provide Wikipedia entries for some of the more important personages and
places mentioned by the author that might be of further interest for the
Jalali, Ali - "Rebuilding Afghanistan's
National Army" - in Parameters, Vol XXXII No 3, Autumm, 2002 - This
is Professor Jalali's summary of the historical problems leaders in Afghanistan
have faced for centuries when attempting to create a national army totally
responsive to and loyal to the central government. Unfortunately his excellent
recommendations as of 2002 have not yet been fully implemented.
Afghanistan - The entry in the 1911 edition
of the Encyclopedia Britannica provides historical information not found in
Stein, Sir Aurel - On Alexander's Track to
the Indus, Castle Books, Edison, N.J., 2004 (reprint of 1929 edition,
index, illustrations, maps - The author mentions this story. On one of Sir
Aurel's many archeological expeditions he found the famous Aornos mountain
fortress that Alexander stormed on Pir-Sar mountain in present day northwest
Pakistan. Stein quotes extensively from Arrian, Diodorus and Curtius. His
reports from his three expeditions across the Northwest Frontier territories of
British India prior to WWI provide valuable information of the social
conditions typical then also of Afghanistan.
Arrian - trans Pomash Mensch - ed, James Romm
- Anabasis Alexandron - The Landmark Arrian
Fox, Robin Lane -The Search for
Alexander, Little Brown and Company, Boston, 1980, 452 pgs., index,
bibliography, illustrations, maps
Grousset, Rene - The Empire of the
Steppes: A History of Central Asia, Rutgers Univ. Press, New Brunswick,
1970, index, notes, maps
Marozzi, Justin - Tamerlane: Sword of
Islam, Conqueror of the World, Da Capo Press, Bury St. Edmonds, 2004, 449
pgs., index, bibliography, chronology, illustrations, paperback
May, Timothy - The Mongol Art of War,
Westholme, Yardley, 2007, 214 pgs., index, notes, bibliography, illustrations
Kushan Empire - Wikipedia article
Bactria - Wikipedia article
Herat - Wikipedia article
Kandahar - Wikipedia article
Kabul - Wikipedia article
Bamian, city and Pass - Wikipedia article
Afghanistan - Wikipedia article
Invasions of Afghanistan - Wikipedia article
Abdur Rahman Khan - Wikipedia article
Ahmad Shah Durrani - the founder of the
modern Afghanistan - Wikipedia article
Durrani Empire - the original modern
Afghanistan that included Pakistan, Kashmir, Punjab and parts of Iran
Akbar Khan - Wikipedia article
Chinggis (Genghis) Khan - Wikipedia article
Ala ad-Din Muhammad II - Wikipedia article
Jalaluddin Mungabet - Wikipedia article
Kunduz - Wikipedia article
Tokharistan - Wikipedia article
Khorasan - Wikipedia article
Balkh - Wikipedia article
Sistan -Wikipedia article
Durand Line - Wikipedia article
Tamerlane - (Timur) - Wikipedia article
Saffarid Dynasty - Wikipedia Article
Yaqub ibn Laith - Wikipedia article
Mughal Empire - Wikipedia article
Safavid dynasty - Wikipedia article
Ghurid Empire - Wikipedia article
Ghaznavid Kingdom - Wikipedia article
Battle of Terain, 1192
Battle of Parwan, 1221 - Wikipedia article
Battle of Gulnabad, 1722 - Wikipedia article
List of heads of state of Afghanistan since
1709 - Wikipedia article
First Battle of Panipat 1526 - Wikipedia
Siege of Kandahar - 1605 - Wikipedia article
Third Battle of Panipat 1761 -Wikipedia
Further references for later chapters.
Shah Shujah Durrani - Wikipedia article
Dost Mohammad Khan - Wikipedia article
Amir Abdul Rahman Khan (ruled 1880 - 1901)
Chitral state - Wikipedia article - a
fascinating place, independent princely state
Chitral - Wikipedia article - capital of the
above princely state
Bala Hissar - the fortress above Kabul, scene
of much excitement during 18th and 19th centuries - and even during the civil
war in the 1980's.. Wikipedia has good photos also
Simla - also called Shimla - was the British
summer capital during the Raj. for obvious reasons - it is located high in the
cool mountains. - was headquarters from which many orders cited by Prof Jalali
Hazaras - Wikipedia article
Kafiristan - Wikipedia article
Taliban - Wikipedia article
Osman bin Laden - Wikipedia article
Sardar - from the Persian - equivalent to
Arabic - Amir -denotes a senior prince or military commander - like Field