Dost Mohammad Khan
|Dost Mohammad Khan|
دوست محمد خان
|Emir of Afghanistan|
Summer 1826 – 9 June 1863 (Disputed 1839-1842)
|Predecessor||Sultan Mohammad Khan|
|Successor||Wazir Akbar Khan|
Sher Ali Khan
|Born||23 December 1792|
Kandahar, Durrani Empire
|Died||9 June 1863 (aged 70)|
Herat, Emirate of Afghanistan
|Issue||27 sons and 25 daughters at the time of his death|
|Father||Sardar Payinda Khan Muhammadzai (Sarfraz Khan)|
Dost Mohammad Khan Barakzai (Pashto/Persian: دوست محمد خان بارکزی; 23 December 1792 – 9 June 1863), nicknamed the Amir-i Kabir, Also titled Amir al-Mu'minin, was a member of the Barakzai dynasty and one of the prominent rulers of the Emirate of Afghanistan. His 37-year rule was important in the creation of modern Afghanistan. With the decline of the Durrani dynasty, he became the Emir of Kabul in 1826. He was the 11th son of Payendah Khan, chief of the Barakzai Pashtuns, who was killed in 1799 by Afghan Emperor Zaman Shah Durrani.
Dost Mohammad began his official reign at the beginning of his rule in 1826 when he usurped Kabul. However, he had taken Kabul a few years prior in 1818, as well as later returning to power in 1843 after the First Anglo-Afghan War, where his rule was disputed from 1839 to 1842 by Shah Shuja Durrani.
When Dost Mohammad ascended to the rule of Kabul, the Afghan realm faced a period of decline. Beset by civil war between the sons of Timur Shah Durrani, the formerly large Durrani Empire had split into multiple mutually-hostile principalities. By the end of his reign, he had reunited all the former split principalities (including Kandahar and Herat) with Kabul. Dost Mohammad also secured his country's independence from foreign powers in the First Anglo-Afghan War, defeating the British and their attempts to try and restore the former Durrani ruler to the throne, Shah Shuja Durrani.
Dost had ruled for a lengthy 37 years though having been involved in the politics of Afghanistan for much longer. His rule saw the consolidation of Afghanistan, which was long divided following the Durrani civil wars which started in 1793. The name Afghanistan would be popularized in his later reign, and his Kingdom would be known as Afghanistan, rather than Kabul. He would eventually triumph and lead his last campaign to unite Afghanistan by capturing Herat, finally conquering it on May 27, 1863. Dost Mohammad died shortly after this on 9 June 1863 at the age of 70, having accomplished the reunification of Afghanistan.
Early Life and rise to Power (1792-1826)
Dost Mohammad Khan was born to an influential family on 23 December 1792 in Kandahar, Durrani Empire. His father, Payinda Khan, was chief of the Barakzai Tribe and a civil servant in the Durrani dynasty. Their family can be traced back to Abdal (the first and founder of the Abdali tribe), through Hajji Jamal Khan, Yousef, Yaru, Mohammad, Omar Khan, Khisar Khan, Ismail, Nek, Daru, Saifal, and Barak. Abdal had Four sons, Popal, Barak, Achak, and Alako. Dost Mohmmad Khan's mother belonged to the Qizilbash group. Dost Mohammad Khan spoke Persian, Pashto, Punjabi and Turkish, but also had knowledge of the Kashmiri language.
Dost Mohammad Khan was only seven years old when his father, Payinda Khan, was executed. Due to this and the realms instability, Dost Mohammad Khan was unable to receive any proper education, unlike his brothers. After Fateh Khan and Mahmud Shah Durrani conquered Kandahar in 1800, he became the attendant of his older brother, Fateh Khan Barakzai. Dost Mohammad grew even more prominent in Mahmud's second reign, taking up military positions, and even important political office positions, such as the deputyship of Kabul, and the governorship of the Kohistan region.
His elder brother, the chief of the Barakzai, Fateh Khan, took an important part in raising Mahmud Shah Durrani to the sovereignty of Afghanistan in 1800 and in restoring him to the throne in 1809. Dost Mohammad accompanied his elder brother and then Prime Minister of Kabul Wazir Fateh Khan to the Battle of Attock against the invading Sikhs. Mahmud Shah repaid Fateh Khan's services by having him assassinated in 1818, thus incurring the enmity of his tribe. The Barakzai brothers would lead a campaign against Mahmud, including Dost Mohammad, who briefly occupied Kabul in 1818, and established his brother as temporary governor.
After a bloody conflict, Mahmud Shah was deprived of all his possessions but Herat, the rest of his dominions being divided among Fateh Khan's brothers. Of these, Dost Mohammad received Ghazni, to which in 1826, Dost Mohammad toppled his brother, Sultan Mohammad Khan in a coup for Kabul, Dost Mohammad did this by capitalizing on Mohammad Khan's unpopularity, mostly due to his alienation of the Qizilbash factions in his country, leading to attacks on Shia Muslims.
Dost Mohammad Khan decided to use this by visiting a prominent tribal leader, Hajji Khan Kakar, promising him to become the Hakim of Bamyan in exchange for his aid to support a coup. With this support, Dost Mohammad sent Sultan Mohammad an ultimatum, demanding for him to relinquish his control over Kabul, or it would be taken by force. Sultan Mohammad failed to realize the threat at hand, and disregarded the ultimanum. Dost Mohammad then resorted to force, surrounding the citadel of the Bala Hissar, and shelled the upper citadel. Sultan Mohammad finally surrendered his position to Dost Mohammad, capitulating the rule of Kabul over to him. This coup added was very successful for Dost Mohammad, as Kabul was the richest of the Afghan provinces at the time. At the time of his unofficial enthronement in 1826, his government revenue was about 500,000 rupees, and by the 1830s it had increased to 2.5 million rupees.
First Reign (1826-1842)
Having consolidated his rule in Kabul in 1826 after assuming power there, Dost Mohammad made no claim to the Kingship of Afghanistan, This was because he wished to distance himself from the Sadozai ruling Durrani dynasty of Afghanistan prior, even adopting the title of Amir, rather than Shah, as the Durrani Emperors had used. Dost Mohammad's coronation in Kabul was also similar to that of Ahmad Shah Durrani's in 1747. Dost Mohammad was named Padishah, with the title Amir al-Muminin, meaning commander of the faithful. To also not show himself as a usurper, Dost Mohammad pointed out that his grandfather, Hajji Jamal Khan, was the strongest of candidates among the Pashtuns before intervention by Sabir Khan (who had encouraged people to vote for Ahmad Shah), during the Loya Jirga for Ahmad Shah Durrani. Thus, portraying the Muhammadzai claim to power, instead of showing himself as a usurper to the Afghan throne. Another reason why Dost Mohammad advocated for the title of Amir al-Muminin, was due to the fact that he needed the support of the Ulema in Kabul, Ahmad Shah Durrani did not choose a title of religious legitimacy during his ascension, instead, adopting the title, Durr-I-Dauran, meaning Pearl of the Age.
After his coronation, Dost Mohammad focused on establishing a regular army. By 1832, Dost Mohammad fielded an army of over 9,000 Cavalrymen, and 2,000 Infantrymen, considered to be the strongest in Afghanistan during the time.  This proved effective in growing his dread, as his other Barakzai brothers did not challenge his power in Kabul over the fear of his growing large army. During the early years of his first reign, his influence was generally left to Kabul and Ghazni. It is described by Christine Noelle that in the 1820s, the Kabul realm under the Barakzais authority ended just twenty miles south of Kabul, While the base of the Hindu Kush formed the northern boundary of his realm until 1826, when a rebellious brother of his, named Habibullah, controlled Parwan with a force of Uzbeks and Hazaras.
Although Dost Mohammad controlled Bamiyan, the routes leading were controlled by independent Hazara chiefdoms. In the east of his realm, the extent of his rule ended at Jagdalak pass, while Jalalabad and Laghman remained under the control of Muhammad Zaman Khan and Abd-Al-Jabbar Khan. The revenues of Balabagh were collected by Usman Khan, the city was governed by Dost Mohammad's brother, Amir Muhammad Khan. Despite Ghazni being a part of Dost Mohammad's sphere of influence, Amir Muhammad exercised direct control over the city, and it is unknown if he submitted revenue payments to Dost Mohammad. All these combined made the early Muhammadzai Kingdom surely possibly doomed to fail, having been isolated directly by most of the other powers of Afghanistan, and drawn into conflict with others occasionally, alongside nominal discontent including amongst his brothers who were seeking to fight for rule over Kabul, the early Muhammadzai Kingdom appeared as if it would not fare well.
Kabul under early Muhammadzai Rule (1823-1834)
Kabul was the capital of the Durrani Empire, however, after the Durrani Dynasty was banished to Herat, Kabul relatively remained as a prosperous trade city amongst all the political unrest that had developed in the region. In the early nineteenth century, Kabul consisted of three geographic and administrative centers, the Bala Hissar, the city of Kabul, and Chindawul. In the 1820s, the Muhammadzai Sardars inhabited the Bala Hissar, also referred to as "The Citadel". It was made clear that there was an upper and lower citadel, as the lower citadel was also erected between 1775 and 1779, with the upper citadel reserved for state prisoners. However under early Muhammadzai rule, as a result of political unrest, the upper citadel was left in ruins. According to Christine Noelle, the city of Kabul was estimated to consist of around 5,000 houses, and 2,000 shops. Mohan Lal's description of the Chaharsu Bazar in 1832 states,
"The shops displayed a profusion of those fruits which I used to esteem costly luxuries. The parts of the bazar which are arched over exceed anything the imagination can picture. The shops rise over each other, in steps glittering in tinsel splendour, till, from the effect of elevation, the whole fades into a confused and twinkling mass, like stars shining through clouds."
The total population of Kabul was estimated to be around 9,000 families, or 50,000 to 60,000 residents inside the city.
Muhammadzai Consolidation of Power (1834-1837)
Dost Mohammad and his campaigns for consolidation of power and further authority in Afghanistan took many years to accomplish, beginning to appoint local sardars to rule provinces for him to grow his popularity amongst territories he had ambitions to conquer. Dost Mohammad would challenge his authority with his nephews who ruled over Jalalabad and Ghazni, continuing to expand his authority. One such opportunity came in early 1834, when Shah Shuja, the former Durrani ruler of Afghanistan, began approaching Kandahar, as the Dil brothers appeased to Dost Mohammad for assistance against Shah Shuja. Rather than mobilizing his forces toward Kandahar, Dost Mohammad led his forces east ward to Siyahsang. His sons Mohammad Akram Khan and Muhammad Akbar Khan were sent to Jalalabad, where they "scattered" the army of Muhammad Zaman Khan, according to the depictions of Noelle. Nonetheless, Dost justified this attack by claiming it under the pretext of raising an army to combat Shah Shuja.
Following this, Dost lead his forces to Jagdalak, which was ruled by Muhammad Usman Khan under Zaman Khan. Immediately as Dost Mohammad fielded his armies outside the city, Usman Khan surrendered the city to Dost, under the condition that the city would be spared from a military attack. With Dost Mohammad having now attempted to seize Jalalabad, Zaman Khan entered negotiations with the Peshawar Sardars to support him in case of another attack from Dost in Kabul. However, Sultan Mohammad Khan was unable to provide any aid to Zaman, as Peshawar was under threat from Sikh Armies.
Only supported by local chiefs, Zaman Khan found himself unable to field a proper army to contest Dost Mohammad as he marched on Jalalabad. Dost Mohammad seized the city, however offering generous and honorable peace terms. One of these terms were that Dost Mohammad would compensate Zaman Khan with over 150,000 rupees per year. Having now secured Jalalabad, Dost Mohammad appointed Muhammad Akram Khan and Amir Muhammad Khan as governors of the city. The Province of Jalalabad under Dost's rule extended as far as Dakka in Mohmand territory from the Jagdalak pass. The province of Jalalabad alone and the villages of Lagman fielded over 400,000 rupees of revenue, and following Dost Mohammad's conquest, it raised to around 465,000 rupees.
Followed by this conquest, many new regions became subject to Dost Mohammad, including the valley of Kunar, where the governor was appointed by Dost Mohammad Khan in exchange for tribute. Dost Mohammad then marched on Kandahar in 1834, having exploited the situation at hand to gain more influence over Kandahar. Shah Shuja set out in the summer of 1834 to Kandahar, however this expedition was a failure, as Shah Shuja's siege ended in 54 days. With Shah Shuja's army being defeated in early July to the joint coalition between Dost Mohammad Khan and the rulers of Kandahar. Shah Shuja's withdrawal also saw him leaving behind all his luggage. When Dost Mohammad's officials searched Shah Shuja's luggage, they found several letters from the British, addressed toward Shah Shuja as they had proclaimed full support for his cause. The British, and specifically Wade, an advisor, claimed they were forgeries and blamed Karamat 'Ali, the Kabul news writer, who he accused of "deceitful conduct" and "gross subterfuges" according to the depictions of Christine Noelle. This harmed early Anglo-Afghan relations, as Wade did not keep his intentions on wanting Shah Shuja to return to the throne private.
Shortly after Dost Mohammad's victory over Shah Shuja, his older brother, Amir Muhammad Khan died in July 1834, leaving his son, Shams al-Din to succeed him as governor of Ghazni. This included the districts of Nani, Oba, Qarabagh, and Muqur. Ghazni was a strategic province, having generated over 200,000 rupees under the Durranis. Amir Muhammad Khan was able to expand his authority to the provinces of Wardak and Logar, adding over 120,000 rupees to his income, proving himself as a capable administrator. His revenues in total while ruling Ghazni totaled to around 404,000 rupees.
After the death of Amir Muhammad Khan, Ghazni was essentially independent. However, in 1837, Dost Mohammad began leading his efforts to secure complete authority over Ghazni. Dost Mohammad Khan then deposed Shams al-Din, unceremoniously removing him from power and appointing his son, Ghulam Haidar as governor. With Ghazni now secured, Dost announced that he felt secure, and believed his government was now able to progress better. During his early government, Dost Mohammad's rule of Kabul and Kohistan only brought around 500,000 rupees of revenue. However, by the late 1830s, his revenue grew to between 2.4 million - 2.6 million rupees. While though conquering new territories was one of the reasons to this surge, it came primarily from more efficient taxation.
Tensions with the British and Simla Declaration (1838)
In 1838, tensions between the Afghans and Sikhs grew even more, specifically after the Afghans attempted to take Jamrud, Dost Mohammad's relations with the Sikhs deteriorated, as with the British. On 1 October 1838, Lord Auckland, Governor General of India issued the Simla declaration, pointing out of Dost Mohammad's pro Persian sentiments, as well Barakzai hostility toward the Sikhs. As the British took favor with one of the deposed Durrani Kings, Shah Shuja Durrani, who had failed outside of Kandahar in 1834. Accordingly, with this, the British and Shah Shuja fielded their armies. According to the depiction of Christine Noelle, the "Army of the Indus" lead by Shah Shuja consisted of around 15,000 men, including 6,000 hired men.
Dost Mohammad's first invasion of Balkh (1838-1839)
Dost Mohammad Khan did not entirely understand British implications in their declaration, as Dost Mohammad was unsure the British would even go to war, and believed that even if they did, it would take until spring 1839 to properly field their armies for such an invasion. Dost Mohammad decided to begin expanding his authority beyond the Hindu Kush, and sent an army by his designated heir, Akram Khan to force the principalities of Khulm and Qataghan to accept his authority. This invasion was to hope that he could have higher revenues, as well controlling all the custom points between the Amu Darya and Kabul. The subjugation of these territories to the north also provided safe haven if an invasion of southern Afghanistan was to happen.
With Akram Khan's approach, Saighan and Kahmard submitted to the Barakzais, as well as Khulm, who had swore loyalty to Dost Mohammad. Akram Khan decided to attack Balkh, which was held by Bukhara following the collapse of the Durranis. However a battle did not occur, as the governors, Ishan Sudur and Ishan Uraq to accept Afghan Suzerainty. Murad Beg of Qataghan then also submitted to Barakzai rule, this brought Dost Mohammad's borders stretching as far as Aqcha, to the borders of Badakshan in the east.
However, in early March 1839, hearing of a British invasion being imminent, recalled Akram Khan to march back to Kabul, this march ended in disaster. Food, fodder, and fuel were in low supply, troops crossed the Shibar pass and its freezing cold, losing many soldiers. When the survivors of this march arrived at the Darband river, it had a raging torrent, nonetheless, Akram Khan's army still marched through, many more drowning from its icy flowing waters. Akram Khan's remanant forces finally arrived in Kabul in April, however it was no longer a fighting force, as thousands of men had died, and the survivors facing snow blindness, frostbite, and hunger, according to the depictions of Jonathan lee. As well as this, Akram Khan was forced to abandon his artillery, these combined losses severely affected Dost Mohammad's preparations to try and repel the coming British invasion.
First Anglo-Afghan War (1839-1842)
The British Expedition (1839)
By the time Akram Khan had returned to Kabul, the British force had reached Baluchistan and was preparing to march in Kandahar, ruled by the Dil brothers under the Emirate of Qandahar.  This force was commanded by General Willoughby Cotton, with the force consisting of around 9,500 troops of the Bengal and Bombay army, and mostly 7,000 Indian levies recruited by Shah Shuja.  The British campaign force was encumbered by an entourage of 30,000 camp followers and a vast baggage train, followed by a divided General staff. This got to the point where Wade wished to resign due to his minimal role given in the war, as he had around 800 men and was stationed in Peshawar.  Despite General Fane's attempts to dissuade the attempts of keeping such a large camp following, officers embraced that if they were going to war, they would “do it in style” according to the depictions given by Jonathan lee.  The British force traveled through Sindh, while also “pursuading” the Amir of Khairpur to become a British protectorate, furthering their access in the region.  The troops finally reached Dadar after a long route taken in Kalat. Dadar was the entrance to the Bolan pass. By the time the British force passed through the Bolan pass and arrived at Quetta, it was no longer an efficient fighting force due to the scorching heat and hard terrain. 
The British forces also suffered supply issues, with local rulers unable or unwilling to send supplies to the British expedition, the troops were put on half rations, while the camp followers were forced to fend for themselves.  There was however good news for the British expedition, as Burnes had convinced Mehrab Khan, the ruler of Kalat to provide safe passage and supplies for the British expedition for a “substantial fee”, as described by Jonathan lee.  Macnaghten, however, did not trust Mehrab Khan, and while Burnes was negotiating a deal between them and Mehrab Khan, Burnes wrote to Auckland, accusing him of being an “Implacable enemy”  and urged the Governor to allow the annexation of towns they would take along the army's supply route.  Auckland refused this request, however Macnaghten was able to get his way, as in November 1839, he accused Mehrab Khan of duplicity and cutting the army's supply line, insisting he had broke their agreement.  The Bombay division, on its way back to India, was sent to attack Kalat, sacking the city, as Mehrab Khan and many of the cities principal leaders were slain.  The regions captured were put under Shah Shuja's realm. 
The expedition's next challenge was the Khojak pass, another formidable barrier even more worse than the Bolan pass.  The British Expedition fought their way up the narrow defile, where local Ghilzai and Baluch tribesmen had blocked with stones as barriers.  On the Kandahar side of the pass, Kohan Dil Khan and a force of 1,500 tribal levies were preparing to attack as the British expedition entered the plains.  Fortunately for the British, the army did not have to fight their way to Kandahar, as Hajji Khan Kakar, a man who Dost Mohammad Khan expelled from Kabul and who had joined forces with the Kandahar sardars opened contact with Shah Shuja, offering to defect to his cause for the post of Mukhtar al-Daula, one of the most powerful positions in his kingdom.  Shah Shuja agreed to these terms and Hajji Khan Kakar defected to his side with those loyal to him.  Upon this, Kohan Dil Khan and the other Dil brothers fled to Girishk. 
Shah Shuja and the British conquer Kandahar, and March for Ghazni (25 April-23 July 1839)
On 25 April 1839, Shah Shuja entered Kandahar unopposed, with Macnaghten writing to Auckland that the king was “received with feelings nearly amounting to adulation” according to Jonathan Lee's depiction.  Though other officers had reported a lack of public enthusiasm following Shah Shuja's return.  On 8 May, the British and Sepoy troops staged a grand review and crowned Shah Shuja after a 21-gun salute. A column was sent to search for and capture the Dil brothers, but they had escaped and rejected all attempts to negotiate with them.  Instead, the Dil brothers began to gather and raise an army to resist the occupation.  The exhausted British troops took 2 months to recuperate following their expedition to Kandahar, it was not until after the end of June 1839, that Keane ordered his troops to march on Kabul. 
It was around this time that Ranjit Singh of the Sikh Empire had died, kicking off a dynastic struggle that eventually tore the Sikh Kingdom apart.  Keane left behind his heavy siege guns oddly and set out, harassed all along the route by Irregular cavalrymen from Gul Muhammad, or Guru Hotak, and Sultan Muhammad Khan Tokhi.  All of whom refused the customary for passage for payment, nonetheless, if they had accepted, the British expedition would be forced to search through everything they had, as their treasury was empty.  Dost Mohammad was taken by surprise from the southern army's march, as he believed they would march on Herat, and a second army would attack from Peshawar.  Dost Mohammad also believed Keane would bypass Ghazni, since the Afghans found the fort impenetrable, as a result, no reinforcements were sent to the city. Nor did Dost Mohammad's son, Haidar Khan, who was governor of Ghazni, strengthen its defenses.  Instead, Dost Mohammad sent Afzal Khan, another one of his sons, to join the Ghilzai raiders, hoping to draw the British away from their base in Kandahar and attack them at Sayyadabad, between Ghazni and Maidan Shah. Keane, however, did not have the intention of leaving an enemy fort unoccupied behind his lines, as a result, he took the Tokhi stronghold of Qalat-i Ghilzai by storm and installed a garrison there. 
On 21 July 1839, the army arrived at Ghazni, with an assault led by Afzal Khan and the Ghilzais being driven off.  This assault by Afzal Khan saw over 64 prisoners being taken, with them being handed over to Shah Shuja, where he tried them as rebels.  The Ghilzai retorted that since the king was a “Kafir” and a “friend and slave of infidels”, they had every right to resist him and to fight on.  One Ghilzai prisoner drew a knife and Shah Shuja was nearly mortally wounded, before being saved by a bodyguard, who had threw himself between the King and his assailant, taking the blow instead  Shah Shuja responded by condemning all prisoners to death, and his executioner proceeded to saw their heads off with a blunt sword.  Unfortunately for the king, a British officer stumbled upon the executions, and a few weeks later, this spread to the Bengal newspaper, full of the gory details of events that had occurred. 
Capture of Ghazni and March to Kabul (23 July-6 August 1839)
With Keane's arrival to Ghazni, he did not expect it to be so well fortified, making him regret leaving his heavy siege weaponry behind in Kandahar. However, the British were aided by Sardar ’Abd al-Rashid, a grandson of Pur Dil Khan. al-Rashid provided key information about the defences of the city of Ghazni, where he identified the Kabul gate as the weakest and best available point for British forces to strike. Keane ordered an attack on the Kabul gate in the dark of night, with a diversion using bombardment and a feint by Infantry on the other side of the wall. Sapping parties laid down charges and blew down the gate, where they stormed the fort, successfully capturing it with around 200 British killed and wounded, compared to around 500 Afghans killed. When Afzal Khan heard of the fall of Ghazni, he returned to Kabul, abandoning his baggage and camp animals.
While the southern force from Kandahar led its expedition, Wade led different tactics to undermine Dost Mohammad's position from Peshawar, building a covert spy network into Dost Mohammad's administration and family. One such was Ghulam Khan, a confidential news writer who was paid by Wade 40,000 rupees to raise and incite rebellions in the regions of Kohistan and Logar. However, Dost Mohammad's spies caught onto the plan, this led to the arrest of Ghulam Khan. Ghulam Khan, however, escaped hidden under a Burqa, fleeing to Tagab. The populations of Tagab, and the Koh Daman however, were reluctant to rebel, with earlier memories of the destruction brought by Dost Mohammad in other campaigns under the Durranis. The situation however, changed, with many prominent Sardars begun to defect to Shah Shuja's side, this allowed the prominent sardars there to raise an army, also offered 8,000 rupees as a starting incentive by Ghulam Khan. in Mid July, Ghulam Khan set out for Kabul at the head his raised army.
As with this, Dost Mohammad's situation continued to grow worse and worse, with Keane and the rebellion from Kohistan now marching on Kabul, and Ghazni having fallen, Dost Mohammad had no choice but to open peace talks, attempting to salvage his position to remain as Wazir to Shah Shuja. This offer was however, rejected, where his complete abdication and exile was demanded. In Kabul, Dost Mohammad pleaded with the Qizilbash present there to make a last stand at Sayyidabad so they would die with honour, they however, refused to leave Kabul. On 2 August 1839, Dost Mohammad discharged them from their oath of allegiance and set out for Bamiyan, accompanied by Akram Khan, Nawab Jabbar Khan, and other family members. When the British heard of Dost Mohammad leaving Kabul, they attempted to send a force to pursue him, however they made a mistake by sending Hajji Khan Kakar, as he delayed the pursuing force, and by the time the British pursuing force arrived at Bamiyan, Dost Mohammad reached Saighan safely, this forced the British to abandon the pursuit.
British Occupation of Kabul (6–7 August 1839)
Following Keane's arrival to the outskirts of Kabul 4 days after Dost Mohammad fled, he found that the Kohistan rebellion that was raised had occupied the city, a situation that allowed the rebel leaders to negotiate better and more favorable terms with Shah Shuja. Shah Shuja entered Kabul the following day, mounted on a ceremonial elephant, and wearing robes sparkling in jewels.
Shah Shuja’s Administration and relationship with the British (1839-1840)
With Shah Shuja returned to the throne, he proceeded to undermine the British position present in Kabul by alienating prominent Sardars and powerful tribes. Shah Shuja made multiple errors by failing to reward and satisfy tose who had helped bring him to power, including Hajji Khan Kakar, which he exiled to India following British accusation that he allowed Dost Mohammad to escape. It was not long after this that conflict rose between Shah Shuja and the British political establishment, with Shah Shuja trying to affirm that the British had no right to intervene in his internal affairs. Despite this, Burnes and Macnaghten did their best to advise the Shah on different policies, securing appointment for pro-British officials, and forcing the Shah to revoke his judicial decisions. Later Burnes continued to drew up plans for reform on revenue, acting on his own civil authority.
It did not take long for other Afghans to notice this conflict and divide, as petitioners who were rejected by the King turned to the British, who in turn forced Shah Shuja to revoke said decision or implement them. Even Afghans who had little wished for a Sadozai to return to the Afghan throne noticed that the monarchy had been essentially stripped of all power, and that non-Muslims were essentially de facto ruling Shah Shuja's kingdom. The presence of British forces and Camp followers nearly doubled the population of Kabul, with an extra 30,000 souls causing an economic crisis. The British also paid much higher wages compared to the market rate, causing a large shortage of labourers. Even when Shah Shuja regarded this to Macnaghten, the influx of labourers came from the countryside of Shah Shuja's kingdom, leaving many fields and those who worked agriculturally, their fields, unfinished or uncollected. This included winter wheat, as now winter was approaching, the army present in Kabul bought up large amounts of grain, fodder, and fuel at heavily inflated prices. Prices continued to rise when landowners and shopkeepers prevented supplies from coming in, in hopes to sell them for higher prices.
The situation became even worse, as they expected standards of up to the British inflation caused in due term of payment, refusing to sell their produce to the local people unless they paid as such. Soon the price rose beyond affordable, and the streets of Kabul became full of beggars. Burnes tried to stop this by giving out naan but failed to realize that his purchases were contributing to the crisis rather than stopping it. Mullah Shakar, the Wazir to Shah Shuja, issued an order fixing the price of wheat to an affordable price so local people could afford such. Those who wanted to make a larger profit responded by closing their shops and refused to bake, as a result, Mullah Shakar sent officials into the Bazaars, forcing bakers to bake food, otherwise they would be fined, or even imprisoned. The bakers complained to the British about the issue, and as a result, the British took to the bakers side, forcing Shah Shuja to lift what his Wazir had implemented to try and fix the crisis. The bakers were thus free to charge whatever price they wished, with unpopularity growing even more between Shah Shuja's regime, the British, and the local populace.
Dost Mohammad Khan’s resistance and opposition to Shah Shuja and British Occupation (1839-1842)
With Shah Shuja's regime continuing to grow in unpopularity, resistance already began formulating in Autumn 1839, with raids from Ghilzais attacking the Kabul-Ghazni road led to the death of British Lieutenant Colonel Herring. Beyond the Hindu Kush, diplomats of Dost Mohammad were sent to the rulers of Balkh and Bukhara to appeal to them for aid against the British. These risks forced the British to continue to keep troops they were planning to send back to India. Dost Mohammad's request for aid, however, did not come lightly received, as Dost Mohammad had invaded the realm of Balkh just before the British invasion. As from this invasion, Dost Mohammad had annexed Saighan, Balkh, Kahmard, and Duab.
In the winter of 1839, against the advice of Jabbar Khan, Dost Mohammad traveled to Bukhara to be received in person to appeal to the ruler of Bukhara in person. Dost Mohammad along with his sons, Akram Khan and Afzal Khan were initially well received, respected as guests. However, it came clear that the ruler of Bukhara was not willing to support Dost Mohammad. Instead, Dost Mohammad was essentially put under house arrest, and later treated as a prisoner. Suspicions even rose that the ruler of Bukhara would try to have Dost Mohammad and his sons poisoned. It was not until the following summer did Dost Mohammad escape, and through a series of events, made his way to Khulm. However, following this, he found out that Jabbar Khan had accepted Mcnaghten's offer of amnesty and took back the women and children of Dost Mohammad's camp. Despite his family being in British hands, Dost Mohammad did not show any intent to surrender.
The Mir Wali raised a force of over 6,000 Uzbeks, and in September 1840, marched up to Surkhab, forcing the British to abandon their outposts of Ajar, Kahmard, and Bajgah, falling back on Bamiyan. During the encounter at Bajgah, half of Shah Shuja's cavalry while the entire force's officers defected to the resistance's side, while the remaining Afghan levies were captured and disarmed. Dost Mohammad followed up this success by marching on Bamiyan, however he encountered Colonel Dennie, who had an army of Gurkhas and native cavalrymen. Despite being outnumbered, Dennie ordered his Gurkhas to storm the enemy positions, successfully routing the Uzbek army. Dennie then pursued the retreating army with his cavalrymen, slaying those who had defected and the rest of the Uzbek army.
Following this victory, Dr Lord, the political officer in Bamiyan, offered Dost Mohammad honourable exile in India if he surrendered. Only to be informed that Dost Mohammad was “determined to conquer or fall in the attempt”. The Mir Wali and Murad Beg had sought co-operation, as they believed Dennie posed a threat and could possibly march all the way to Khulm. Dennie, however, was not in a position to do so due to the already overstretched Bamiyan garrison facing shortage of manpower, and as a result, they decided not to garrison Saighan, Kahmard, or Ajar. Threats of a British sponsored attack from Herat by Shah Kamran were a threat, and this forced the Wali of Maimana to pledge allegiance to Shah Shuja's rule.
The Reality of Shah Shuja’s situation and his powerbase (September 1840)
The desertion of Shah Shuja's men was a blow to British morale, as they lost hope that he could sufficiently raise his own Afghan national army to defend himself, especially since they wished to withdraw many regiments back to India. As a result, the British sent an additional 2,000 troops to help grip Shah Shuja's reign over his unstable populace, and the already overstretched garrisons, especially in cities like Bamiyan. Despite this, Auckland wished to withdraw British troops from Afghanistan, and to leave only one or two regiments. The British now faced the reality that Shah Shuja was not as popular as he was believed to be, especially now that he was having trouble to raise a large army to defend his rule, let alone sufficiently pay for it, as the British had to subsidize the Shah's regiments. Even Mcnaghten had to face this startling reality, as Shah Shuja's power was confined to his courtiers, as not even the Qizilbash, who were the backbone of Sadozai military power after Timur Shah could be trusted due to many of their senior commanders being related by marriage to Payindah Khan and Dost Mohammad.
Revolt and Sale’s campaigns in the Koh Daman and Kohistan (September-2 November 1840)
The Defeat at Saighan and Mir Wali's treaty with Shah Shuja made Dost Mohammad abandon his attempts of trying to raise an army in Balkh, and instead found allies elsewhere, where he allied with the leaders of the Kohistan rebellion that had tried to depose him prior, from Sultan Muhammad Khan of Nijrab and Mir Hajji. After a year of British occupation, they realized their mistake of opposition toward Dost Mohammad, and now called for his restoration, seeking to support him. Mostly disappointed by the lack of reward Shah Shuja gave them, as well as poor rule from Shah Shuja's regime led to this. Shah Shuja even lowered their allowances and demanded several years of payment of revenue. Adding to the tension that was already there, Shah Shuja also forcefully conscripted hundreds of Kohistanis and Safis into his army.
Mir Hajji and other religious leaders refused to also pay a tax imposed by Shah Shuja, claiming it was against shari’a and unlawful for the ruler to impose such. When they came to Kabul to discuss the issue with Shah Shuja, he refused to allow them to leave, and shortly after the victory at Saighan, they were imprisoned. The Shah imprisoned Hafizji and other religious leaders. Following the arrests, Mir Hajji and Hafizji denounced Shah Shuja as a “Kafir”, and legitimized a Jihad against him and the British. By the end of September 1840, the regions of Kohistan, Tagab, and Nijrab were in revolt, posing a serious threat to Shah Shuja's regime, as these areas could mobilize up to 50,000 men.
With only two British-Indian regiments left in Kabul to defend the city, as well as the Shah's army deemed unfit, Dennie was recalled from Bamiyan. As a result, Shah Shuja's kingdom's most northern outpost was now Old Charikar in the Koh Daman. News of the uprising in Kohistan struck fear in the capital, with shopkeepers closing their shops, burying their jewels and other treasure, and sending family to scatter across the countryside. Realizing that action had to be taken, General Cotton called upon Robert Sale, a veteran of the Anglo-Burmese war.
Robert Sale was tasked with ending the rebellion, and while planning, he was accompanied by one of Shah Shuja's sons, Timur Mirza. Sale began his first campaign and immediately faced harsh resistance, where in his first battle at Tutam Darra, Lieutenant Edward Connolly, Arthur Connolly's brother, was shot through the heart, however the fort was retaken from rebels. Sale's next objective was the stronghold of Jalgah, governed by Mir Masjidi. When Sale's men attempted to storm the walls of Jalgah, they were repelled with heavy casualties. This was as a result of Sale's scaling ladders brought from Kabul being too short to properly scale the walls of the stronghold. Even worse for him, Sale did not bring any heavy siege weaponry, however, fortunately for Sale, Mir Masjidi was wounded among the fighting upon his first attempt at storming, as a result, he abandoned the stronghold. The following morning, Sale marched into the stronghold, ordering it and its crops, orchards, and vineyards to be razed and burned. Yet Sale's storming of the stronghold was rather unneeded, as prior to the assault, Ghulam Khan had secured Mir Masjidi's allegiance, alongside Mir Hajji and Khoja Abd’al-Khaliq. This was due to the fact that they did not owe allegiance to Dost Mohammad, in-fact, they were indebted to the Sadozai dynasty who had helped bring them to rule in the region under Zaman Shah Durrani. And now, having heard of Sale's attack on Jalgah, Mir Masjidi accused Ghulam Khan and the British of perfidy, fully defecting to Dost Mohammad's side alongside a group of pirs.
In early October 1840, Dost Mohammad arrived in Nijrab to command his army. Sale, seeking to force an open battle with Dost Mohammad, moved across the Panjshir, razing many local villages and their crops, orchards, and vineyards. At the same time, Sale overstretched his line of communication, and supply lines. When Sale reached the village of Kah Darra, the rebels abandoned it after brief fighting, to which, many local village leaders and elders came to Sale to show their allegiance. Despite this, Sale ordered the burning of Kah Darra's 800 houses, razing the entire village alongside its crops, vineyards, and orchards. This action of brutality that was meant to inspire dread and fear however, backfired, as Saif-al-din's nephew, who was the leader of a Kohistani regiment under Shah Shuja was brought the news, he defected with a large amount of men, including nearly all the Durrani Cavalry.
On 2 November 1840, Dost Mohammad finally confronted Sale's forces, halting his advance and engaging battle at Parwan Darra. Dost Mohammad held a strong defensive position, with his forces dug in on a ridge overlooking Sale's advance. Sale sent Captain Fraser and his Bengal horse force to attack the enemy infantry, however, only a handful of men followed the order, leaving the British officers to charge against the Afghan force alone and essentially without any support. Dr Lord, earlier political officer of Bamiyan who offered Dost Mohammad terms of surrender was killed amongst this fighting that broke out. Fortunately, Fraser survived this charge and returned to British lines, however, with his sabre nearly severed at the wrist.
Dost Mohammad, seeing what had happened ordered his cavalry to lead a counter-attack, whereupon the disorganized Bengal horse force was routed, with the Afghan Cavalry chasing them in pursuit and killing many. According to the depictions of Jonathan Lee, the 2nd Bengal Horse was disgraced for their inability to follow orders, later disbanded, and erased from records. Nonetheless, following this route, Sale ordered his infantry and Qizilbash to storm the heights, and after heavy fighting and heavy casualties, they secured the ridge, to their dismay where they saw Dost Mohammad withdraw his forces in good order. Both sides withdrew, and later, the Afghans re-occupied the ridge, which was left undefended. With the ridge position, they fired onto the British camp below. As the following day came, Timur Mirza and Burnes urged Sale to abandon the campaign. This was due to the Afghan troops loyal to Shah Shuja who had not deserted, already being on the edge of mutiny, as well as Sale losing hundreds of men and many more wounded with nothing to show for it. With supplies running low as well, he obliged and returned to Charikar, crossing the Panjshir river, with those villages he had campaigned for at great cost quickly being reoccupied.
The “Surrender” of Dost Mohammad Khan (2 November 1840)
Despite Sale having little to show for the campaign and the trail of devastation left by him, Sale called Parwan Darra a victory. However he was unable to conceal the fact of the 2nd Bengal horse defying orders, and as a result, many British officers were killed. Atkinson, the armies surgeon general, called the encounter a “disaster”, Kaye also called the battle a defeat. However, early in the evening of 2 November 1840, a horsemen identified as Sultan Muhammad Khan Safi rode up to Macnaghten, as with this, he was followed by another lone horsemen, who came up to Macnaghten. This horsemen was no other then Dost Mohammad Khan.
Dost Mohammad's surrender has been given much speculation by historians as to why he surrendered. A number of explanations range from Dost Mohammad's surrender, oddly even after his victory at Parwan Darra. According to Jonathan Lee, some of these depictions include Dost Mohammad believing that the British were destined to rule between the Indus and more. Others claim according to Jonathan Lee, that, after the defeat at Saighan, Dost Mohammad was free to surrender without loss of honour. Another theory being that Dost Mohammad surrendered due to the brave suicidal charge done by Captain Fraser and Dr Lord, where he could have recognized resistance as futile. This theory however, did not make any sense as where the 2nd Bengal horse faced many defy orders to charge with them, the British lost multiple men due to this and inevitably, the battle.
Another theory to Dost Mohammad's surrender was his family being in custody with the British, and about to be exiled to British India. This theory is even less credible, however, due to the fact that the British promising to treat them honourably, as Dost was in no position regardless to change this. Nonetheless, whatever reason Dost Mohammad had surrendered for, it was clear he was not surrendering as a defeated man, as he had successfully defeated the British at Parwan Darra, and even forced their withdrawal from Bamiyan. The revolt in Kohistan also put the military favor within Dost Mohammad's reach, yet for some reason, he decided to give up resistance.
Mohan Lal gives the most clear and coherent theory was to why Dost Mohammad surrendered, as according to Lal, Dost Mohammad Khan was plotted against, and in battle, a sniper planned to assassinate him. As further explained by Lal, this was plotted out by Kohistani Amirs, who would then blame the British for this. Lal's accounts and claims are supported by letters to Dost Mohammad Khan from Sultan Muhammad Khan of Nijrab, who had warned the Amir of a plot that was circulating from Maliks who were planning to betray and assassinate him. Abd al-Karim Alawi, who wrote a near contemporary account of the First Anglo-Afghan War, elaborates further on the details of this plot.
According to Al-Karim, Sales and Burnes were in contact with the Malik of ‘Ali Hissar, who agreed to kill or capture Dost Mohammad and his two sons in exchange for a substantial payment. According to confidential information shared by British officers, Macnaghten and Burnes had been intercepting communications from Sultan Muhammad Khan of Nijrab, and his supporters. As a result, Macnaghten forged a letter from a well-wisher in Kabul, sending a letter to Dost Mohammad Khan, where it warned the Amir of a plot on his life. Dost Mohammad Khan, having read this letter, was convinced that there was indeed, a plot on his life, as he did not have reason to trust the Kohistanis, as decades prior, he attacked and razed the region. As a result, the only person he seemed to have trusted was Sultan Muhammad Khan of Nijrab. As a result, Dost Mohammad’s options were limited, as the Mir Wali and Murad Beg signed a treaty with Shah Shuja, no longer offering sanctuary for Dost Mohammad.
His experience in Bukhara and how he had to escape swayed Dost Mohammad from trying to seek refuge in Balkh, as he could be imprisoned, or even killed. Therefore, he went to the only choice he could think of, the British. The British cantonment at Kabul was only a few hours ride from Parwan Darra, and he had already received assurances that he would be treated honourably in captivity and exile. As a result, Dost Mohammad’s “surrender” is treated by Jonathan Lee and many other historians as nothing akin to surrender, rather seeking refuge with the British government through an old tradition of grabbing the stirrup. An old Turco-Mongolian tradition called rikab giriftan. Atkinson states that Dost Mohammad was seeking the protection of the British government through this action, and as a result, a famous sketch was produced showing Macnaghten and Dost Mohammad shaking hands as a sign of friendship.
According to Jonathan Lee, Akbar Khan had later stated that his father “Thrown himself upon the honour of the British government, in times of need”. Macnaghten was elated to hear the news, as according to Jonathan Lee, he stated: “The Afghans are gunpowder and the Dost is a lighted match”. Dost Mohammad was treated honourably, and even was housed in the Bala Hissar, with Dost Mohammad allowed to meet his family, and write to his sons that were in open resistance. Dost Mohammad was also allowed to ride on horse with an escort. During his stay in the Bala Hissar, he held a secret court, with many coming to pay their respects to the former Amir. This had shown Dost Mohammad's popularity, and opposite to Shah Shuja's claims, Shah Shuja was seen as unpopular by many. In Macnaghten's letters, it was shown that he expressed sympathy for Dost Mohammad, showing a very clear contrast to what he referred to him now compared to two years prior, where he denounced Dost Mohammad in the Simla declaration. Macnaghten even asked the Governor General to treat Dost Mohammad better than when they had Shah Shuja in his exile, since to his statement: “We ejected the Dost, who never offended us, in support of our policy, of which he was the victim”.
Following the surrender of Dost Mohammad and his exile to India, the resistance that rose in Kohistan slowly died out, with resistance fighters returning waiting dormantly. However, Sale's scorched earth policy of burning villages, cropyards, vineyards, orchards, and more were unsettling the populace. As described by Jonathan Lee, “awaiting a spark to ignite the flames”. Akbar Khan, Dost Mohammad's son, took refuge with Muhammad Shah Khan, his father-in-law, and head of the Babakr Khel Ghilzais of Laghman. While two more of Dost Mohammad's sons, Azam Khan and Sher Ali were in Zurmast. Despite the threat posed by these Sardars and more, Macnaghten allowed Jabbar Khan and Muhammad Zaman Khan to remain in Kabul, where they attempted to undermine Shah Shuja's authority in secret intrigue with the Ghilzais.
Rise of tensions between Shah Shuja and the British (1840-1841)
Following the victory in Kohistan, Macnaghten and Burnes exploited this to accuse Mullah Shakar, Shah Shuja's Wazir, of intentionally inciting the revolt. As a result, they pushed for Shah Shuja to replace Mullah Shakar with Mohammad Osman Khan, son of Wafadar Khan, and the man who was responsible for killing Dost Mohammad's father, Payindah Khan Barakzai. Shah Shuja had multiple reasons to not trust Osman Khan, as he was a Kamran Khel Sadozai, and hence, a rival for his throne, to which he could press the claim any time he wished. This appointment of Osman Khan was a de facto coup, as he was an excellent source of inside information, where after every court session, he would return with information to Macnaghten and await tasks to do for the day.
Macnaghten's and Burnes's affirmation of Osman Khan as Wazir further reinforced the idea that Shah Shuja was just king in name, as Shah Shuja also publicly complained about his little power. Shah Shuja went as far as to reinforce this claim by sending petitioners to Burnes and Macnaghten instead of dealing with their issues himself. Burnes continued going into area's of where the King should have complete power over, including plans for reform of the military and state finances and taxation. More often following this, Burnes did not consult Shah Shuja or his ministers about such, as a result, continuing to reinforce the divide and increasing tensions. A similar case occurred in Kandahar, when British political officials attempted to reform Administration, and opened plans for a major overhaul in land tax.
General Nott, a local garrison commander in the region even flogged some of Timur Mirza's men, and when Auckland reprimanded him, tensions grew further within British command. A position that was expected to go to Nott was commander-in-chief, yet following this event and Nott going into a fit of rage, it was instead given to William Elphinstone, Auckland also appointed Brigadier General John Shelton as Elphinstone's second in command. Auckland believed these were the best candidates for the positions. When Elphinstone and Shelton arrived in Kabul, Macnaghten told them no worry of anything militarily, claiming that Kabul was secure, and many surrounding territories were all clear. According to Jonathan Lee, When junior officers had tried to warn Macnaghten of trouble brewing, he dismissed them as “croakers”.
The unstable British occupation and its consequences (March–September 1841)
The British occupation of Afghanistan was drawing on much longer than expected, raising concerns in Calcutta and London for how the war was progressing. In the Indus campaign, over 26,000 troops were tied up, with another 16,000 troops present in Afghanistan, and a further 9,000 men stationed in Sindh and Baluchistan to protect the British supply lines. As following Ranjit Singh's death, troops were deployed into Punjab, and even more were tied down against the Qing in the First Opium War. The deployment of these forces outside the frontiers of India raised concerns that there were insufficient forces in the Indian heartland to deal with rebellion if it became an issue. Auckland also grew more concerned with the British occupation and the implication of establishing Shah Shuja on the throne, as the occupation had already costed around 1 million British pounds. This was followed by another half a million pounds being used to upkeep the garrisons in Sindh.
The cost of the war was growing more and more, and even put the British Indian government over 1 million pounds in debt, forcing them to borrow heavily to bare the expenses of the war. This grew more and more unsustainable, and in Spring 1841, Auckland informed London of his plan to all but two regiments to leave in Afghanistan, with one in Kabul, and the other in Kandahar. Thus as a result, he wished to withdraw within 1 year. Shah Shuja was hence, given the task of filling in the states finances that the British had been up-keeping for them, and to raise an army of over 12,000 men to fill in the British withdrawal. Given the desertion at Parwan Darra and Saighan, this was a difficult task. Shah Shuja even informed Wade that Ahmad Shah's kingdom did not provide sufficient revenue to cover state finances, nor paying and equipping a large standing army.
When Shah Shuja returned to the throne, he tried to change this by taxing the populace, as well as confiscating auqaf holdings, and tax-exempt estates, only for this to provoke revolts against him and continue the spread of his unpopularity. In order to pacify the rebels, the tax was abandoned, and the British found themselves in a difficult position, where withdrawal was the preferred option, however if they left, it could lead to the fall of Shah Shuja's government, and the emergence of an anti-British government. At the same time, the British could not continue subsidizing Shah Shuja's government and continue fighting his wars.
In order to save money, Auckland ordered Macnaghten to expenses drastically, from 1 million British pounds to 30,000 pounds by the end of 1842. Burnes and his advisors then began drawing up plans in Kandahar for a major reform of the army and state revenue. Much to the disapproval of Shah Shuja, to which he saw this as the British continuing to interfere in his internal affairs. When Shah Shuja tried to impose taxes once again on religious endowments, there was fierce resistance, with prominent tribal chiefs including Aminullah (also known as Amin Allah) Khan Logari, and Hamza Khan of Tezin, to which Shah Shuja responded by dismissing them from their posts.
In Kandahar, the Durranis of Zamindawar and Helmand rebelled under the leadership of Akhtar Khan, with the Afghan regiments sent by Nott to suppress the rebellion being defeated. Nott then sent British and Indian to suppress the rebellion, to which this succeeded and Akhtar Khan was defeatd. However, Akhtar Khan regrouped a few months later and besieged Giriskh with its British garrison. According to Jonathan Lee, a major rebellion was incited in 1841 due to rumors of additional revenues and reports that Nott planned to garrison Qalat-I-Ghilzai, to exterminate the Ghilzai “nation”. As a result, many Hotakis and Tokhis fled to the defence of Qalat-I-Ghilzai, and when Nott arrived with his forces to put down this large rebellion, he found himself facing thousands of hostile tribesmen. As Nott began advancing upon the citadel, the Ghilzai forces attacked, whereupon Nott responded with disciplined musket fire and grapeshot, inflicting heavy casualties on the Ghilzais. Despite heavy casualties, the Ghilzais continued their attacks on the British lines, attacking and harassing them until five hours later, the Ghilzais fled from the growing losses.
Nott's victories in the Helmand and Qalat-I-Ghilzai further reinforced Macnaghten's belief that Afghanistan was pacified, and the war was slowly drawing to a close. As a result, he began underestimating the true lengths of revolts that rose. Macnaghten wrote in August 1841, “Those who knew this country when it was ruled by the Barakzais, are amazed at the metamorphosis it has undergone, and with so little bloodshed”. And when Henry Rawlinson, the political officer in Kandahar, warned Macnaghten that the rebellions were the beginning of a more serious trouble, Macnaghten ignored this, stating:
“unwarrantably gloomy view of our position, and entertaining and disseminating rumours favourable to that view. We have enough of difficulties and croakers without adding to the number needlessly. These idle statements may cause much mischief, and, often repeated they are, they neutralise my protestations to the contrary. I know them to be utterly false as regards this part of the country, and I have no reason to believe them to be true regarding your portion of the Kingdom”.
As a result of this reinforced belief, Elphinstone and Macnaghten continued ignoring the warnings of experienced Indian officers, and Afghan well-wishers. More Indian troops were withdrawn, and by the end of October 1841, there was just one British and Indian regiment in Kabul, supported by a corps of Shah Shuja's troops. In order to raise the 12,000 men the British expected to fill in the holes of the British withdrawal, Burnes drew up complete reform of the Kingdom's military. Modelled off the British army, a completely new officer corps was raised based on merit rather than birth status. A force of around 1,600 men were raised, known as the Janbaz, was commanded and trained by British officers, but paid at the King's expense. The Janbaz were paid regular wages, and received reward for bravery, and even land grants.
A second corp, the Hazarbashis was also established as a personal kings guard, tasked with protecting the King and defending the capital. Though it was not brought up nor mentioned, the Hazarbashis replaced the Ghulam Khana, which did not go unnoticed by the Qizilbash. The officer corps was also reduced, with serving military officers having to apply again to the Janbaz or the Hazarbashi, essentially in effect sacking the entire Afghan military command. These humiliating actions did not top what was imposed by the British, as nobles now had to go to Lieutenant Trevor, one of the lowest in British command, to where they felt insulted as they had commanded their own tribal militias, and now they were being reduced to petition. Trevor even told the nobles that in a year or two their “kind” would be unemployed, and rewards after that point would be a pure act of charity.
The biggest insult that enraged the nobles however, was the fact that the Janbaz and Hazarbashi forces had to swear a new oath of allegiance to Shah Shuja, unless they be exiled. The reason they found this insulting was due to the fact that they had already pledged allegiance when Shah Shuja and the British took Kabul. As a result, the nobles took this as Shah Shuja doubting their loyalties. The angry nobles demanded for Shah Shuja to remove the order, to which Shah Shuja called them cowards who uttered idle threats. He notified them that, since he was king in name only, the nobles should go to Macnaghten for their issues.
As a result, on 1 September 1841, all but a handful of officers refused to take the oath of allegiance, to which, Shah Shuja responded by banning them from court and demanded they took the oath or face punishment. After around nearly a month of standoff, most of the officers took the oath, and in secret, some military officers planned to take revenge on Macnaghten and Burnes who had reduced them to this level of what they saw as humiliation. Macnaghten then proceeded to alienate the tribes which had brought Shah Shuja to power.
In the Autumn of 1841, Macnaghten received Auckland's orders to reduce their spending, and find savings of hundreds of thousands of pounds within a matter of weeks. Convinced that much of Afghanistan was pacified following Nott's victories at the Helmand and Qalat-I-Ghilzai, he halved the payments of the chiefs of Tezin, Jabbar Khel, and the Kohistani pirs. In September 1841, Macnaghten summoned the chiefs who had their payments halved, justifying it by Sultan Muhammad Khan's methods of paying the Jabbar Khel only around 13,000 rupees. This cut in their payments raised many concerns, as the payments helped the chiefs maintain their positions by isolating and getting rid of their rivals, the loss of revenue thus, posed a serious threat to their standing within their tribe.
Jihad against British Occupation (September–November 1841)
A few days after Macnaghten broke the news of the tribal chiefs payments being halved, key tribal chiefs and other prominent leaders who were affected by Macnaghten's reforms, including, Durrani nobles, Ghilzai Khans, and Kohistani Mullah's all met in secret in Kabul and swore on the Quran to unite and “Annihilate” the invaders.
One of the first signs of trouble following this secret declaration was when the Tezin Ghilzais plundered a qafila on its way to Kabul. A few days later, the Jabbar Khel attacked, and within a week, British supply lines and communication to Peshawar were completely cut. This was followed by an incited revolt in Laghman, where Muhammad Shah Khan, the father-in-law of Akbar Khan, secured a fatwah from local Mullahs and declared Jihad against the British and Shah Shuja's regime. As a result, Shah Shuja dispatched Hamza Khan, head of the Tezin Ghilzais, to negotiate with Muhammad Shah. When Hamza Khan opened negotiations with Muhammad Shah, he further asked them to continue their revolts. When Hamza Khan returned to Shah Shuja, he was imprisoned for treachery, angering his tribe.
As Sale's brigade was about to return to India, Elphinstone ordered him to reopen the Kabul-Jalalabad, however, since the troops were at the end of their tour of duty, Elphinstone refused to issue them the latest percussion rifles, instead giving them the most oldest and worn-out Brown bess muzzle-loading muskets. The Brown bess was a relic of the Napoleonic wars, and junior officers even referred to them as “useless” and “about as bad specimens of firearms as can be manufactured”. The Brown bess was only effective at short range and less accurate then the Afghan Jezail.
Sale's brigade had to fight all the way from Khak to Tezin and often storm heights multiple times to drive off enemy snipers who were harassing them as they marched. When Sale's brigade reached Tezin, the local chiefs subsidy was restored in full, and given an unofficial apology due to the halving of their revenue. At Gandamak, Sale received message from Elphinstone to march to Kabul, as Kohistan had risen in revolt. Sale's brigade, however, was in no shape to push to Kabul, having lost most of their officers and with hundreds dead or wounded. Sale's situation was not presented much better as they were running low on ammunition, and most of the baggage they had was abandoned or looted. After consulting with his senior officers, Sale decided to ignore the orders from Elphinstone, and instead marched to Jalalabad, taking its key fort and strengthening it's defences. And while Sale battled his way to Jalalabad, Macnaghten was celebrating and congratulating himself on the defeat of the Ghilzai revolt, as with this, he believed he and Elphinstone, who was now facing troubles with Gout would be returning to India shortly. As a result, at the beginning of November, Eldred Pottinger, who was the political officer in Charikar, wrote to Macnaghten that Mir Masjidi Khan and Sultan Muhammad Khan of Nijrab had revolted, he did not take the threat seriously, and remarked that once the tribesmen had heard of the Ghilzai defeat at Qalat-I-Ghilzai, they would surrender. Macnaghten did not realize the threat of the situation, and that the Kohistan uprising was as a result of the meetings in Kabul six weeks prior to revolt against the British. This “revolt” however, soon changed, as Mir Masjidi had declared Jihad.
On 1 November, Mir Masjidi's forces overran Aq Sarai, also cutting off its only line of retreat to Kabul. Mir Masjidi then set out for Kabul with five hundred men, while 2,000 more were sent to support Muhammad Safi, who was marching on Laghmani. These rapid attacks by Mir Masjidi led to Old Charikar and Laghmani to be encircled by over 20,000 men total. As a result, on 3 November, Pottinger agreed to meet with the rebels, with his assistant Rattray. Unbeknownst to him however, it was a trap, where Rattray was shot in the back and killed, however, Pottinger returned to Laghmani unharmed. With no relief coming, Pottinger abandoned Laghmani and withdrew to old Charikar, however, not long after, Charikar was also besieged, with its water supply diverted. When Codrington attempted a sortie to secure water, he was shot dead and Pottinger was wounded in the foot. Despite lack of water, the British garrison held out for a week, repelling all attempts to seize the fort. On 9 November, a "friendly sayyid" was allowed into the fort to inform Pottinger of an uprising in Kabul, as well as the death of Burnes. With most of the force not in a proper condition to fight, Pottinger was forced to make the decision to attempt a retreat to Kabul. However, unknown to him, Macnaghten came to agreement with Mir Masjidi to let the garrison go in exchange for 60,000 rupees. Pottinger split his army into two columns, managing to slip away without detection only for the two columns to lose communication with each other in the dark. Pottinger and Haughton, on horse back made it to Kabul, however the rest of the force was picked apart by Afghan Cavalry, slaughtering the abandoned force.
Kabul uprising and death of Burnes (1-2 November 1841)
When Pottinger and Haughton arrived at the Kabul cantonment, they found Kabul in an uproar, as an uprising had begun in November 1841. The uprising was due to the combined events of allowing non-Muslims to dictate over Shah Shuja, where British interference in the Afghan foreign affairs and Burnes's reforms which had undermined the power of the king and his courtiers. These combined reasons led to resentment directed toward the British. The revolt was coordinated by an oath on the Quran six weeks earlier. With the chief instigator of the uprising being 'Abd Allah Khan Achakzai, priorly being a Durrani noble and supporter of the Sadozai Monarchy. Sometime before the secret meeting in September, he met with Allah Khan Logari, where he was persuaded to become the titular head of the revolt, placed as commander in chief of the insurrection. 'Abd Allah Khan continued to grow influence in Kabul, securing the support of key Popalzai Royalists, several members of Kabul's religious establishments, and the head of the Bayat Qizilbash. Aminullah Khan Logari and many other leaders of the uprising however, were imprisoned by Shah Shuja, dismissed from their posts, or their privileges' removed. The conspirators goal was to restore power to Shah Shuja rather than having it be in the hands of the British, however were divided amongst whether Shah Shuja should remain king, or if one of his sons should take his place. The conspirators also believed that if the British withdrew from Afghanistan, they would be able to raise an army to maintain the Sadozai Monarchy. In order to gain the support of the Muhammadzai, the Royalists planned to restore an agreement made by Ahmad Shah and Hajji Jamal Khan to have to have one of Payindah Khan Barakzai's sons to be appointed as Wazir. The Royalists however, had multiple issues with their planned revolt, as the Royalists were unable to accept the fact that Shah Shuja was not a popular king, as well as the fact that Shah Shuja was reliant on British aid to keep his rule, as the British were paying stuff from army wages to civil service, as well as fighting their battles. Alongside this, cooperation with the Muhammadzais was an unrealistic prospect due to the tensions and already bad blood between the two lineages. 'Abd Allah Khan also had a vendetta against burnes, following tensions about a large debt he owed to a Hindu moneylender, Burnes demanded he repay the debt, to which Allah Khan refused. Alongside this, one of Allah Khan's concubines had escaped from his harem and took refuge with Burnes in his house. Another similar case occurred to Allah Khan's brother, where on this occasion a woman was pledged in marriage to his brother, however, she also had fled and took refuge with British officers. Allah Khan was concerned as this had hurt their honor, and as a result he made it his objective to attack the houses of Burnes and Trevor first. It was also public knowledge that Trevor had thousands of company rupees stored in his house, as well as both houses were guarded with a small amount of sepoys, was further reason to attack the houses as the treasure would be useful to raise further troops.
News of the plot spread and the evening before the plot, Mohan Lal's spies informed him of the plot, and he sent a warning to Burnes to increase the amount of guards on his house. Afghan sympathizers also warned Burnes that an attack was imminent and that he should take refuge in the Bala Hissar until Shah Shuja could arrest the conspirators. Burnes however, ignored these warnings and refused to leave, however, he did further order to increase the guard upon his house. These, however, never arrived, leaving only a few sepoys to defend Burnes and Trevor's house. On the evening of 1 November 1841, Mir Masjidi Khan rode into Kabul and announced that Kohistan had rebelled. Fearing that the Royalists had lost the initiative, 'Abd Allah Khan decided to act. Early the following morning, a band of his retainers attacked Burnes's house and set it on fire. Burnes, his younger brother, and other occupants were killed in the raging fire as they attempted to escape, Trevor's compound was also sacked, with the sepoy guards killed and the treasury looted. Trevor, his wife, and his seven children escaped to Chindawal where they were sheltered by Khan Shirin Khan Jawanshir. Nawab Muhammad Zaman Khan gave refuge to Mohan Lal and warned 'Abd Allah Khan that if he attempted to capture Mohan Lal, he and the Barakzai clan would declare war on him. Despite the heavy fighting and chaos in the city, it was not until the following day that Macnaghten and Elphinstone were convinced that Burnes had been killed and that there had been an uprising. This lack of action helped the rebels, as the Hazarbashis mutinied and attacked or killed any British officer they saw. Shah Shuja decided to take action, sending a corps of Ghulams commanded by John Campbell, also known as Sher Muhammad Khan. Sher Muhammad tried to save the British officers, however, suffered heavy casualties and as a result were forced to retreat to the safety of the Bala Hissar. Shah Shuja then sent his eldest son, Fath Jang, to negotiate with the rebels, only for Fath Jang to urge them to "destroy the infidels" according to the depictions of Jonathan lee. Shah Shuja ordered his artillery to fire upon 'Abd Allah Khan's house, however, he had already taken up a forward position in the qal'a of Muhammad Shah Bayat on the north bank of the Kabul river. As a result, Shah Shuja was cut off from the main British force in the cantonment, and was effectively surrounded with the Bala Hissar under siege.
Factionalism in the Kabul Uprising (2-5 November 1841)
'Abd Allah Khan's attacks marked the beginning of a city-wide revolt in which there were numerous factions fighting for the British, or their rivals. Aminullah Khan Logari, Abd Allah Khan and the Royalists fought on the side of the Sadozai dynasty, directly opposing the British. Opposing them was Nawab Muhammad Zaman Khan, the eldest surviving son of Payindah Khan Barakzai. Muhammad Zaman showed ambitions to try and become Amir or at least Wazir. The Sardars were divided politically, with some supporting the return of Dost Mohammad, and others supporting Muhammad Zaman or even one of the Peshawar or Kandahar Sardars. The uprising in Kohistan surprised Muhammad Zaman and the Muhammadzai, however, in response Muhammad Zaman sent a messenger to Akbar Khan, who was in Khulm. This message urged Akbar Khan to come to Kabul, with a second rider sent to Nawab Jabbar Khan. On 3 November, Jabbar Khan rode into Kabul at the head of Jabbar Khel Ghilzais and occupied the Shah Bagh, a former Mughal garden. The Shah Bagh was a strong position southwest of the cantonment, also controlling the road to the Koh Daman, and one of the fords over the Kabul river. Having secured the Shah Bagh, the Sadars met to discuss the situation, to which they concluded that Nawab Muhammad Zaman Khan would be king. Coins were struck in his name, and mullahs were required to say his name in the khutbah, however Mir Masjidi and other Royalists refused to obey the order.
In the first week of November 1841, Kabul had two rival factions, supporting different kings, and using different currencies. Kabul was divided into four main factions north of the Kabul river, Nawab Zaman Khan, Jabbar Khan, and other Muhammadzai Sardars, supported by sections of the Jabbar Khel and Hamza Khan of Tezin, controlled the Shah Bagh and Qal'a-yi Mahmud Khan. Mir Masjidi Khan and his Kohistanis controlled Behmaru, Qal'a-yi Rikab Bashi and all points north to Pai-yi Minar. In the east, the Jabbar Khel had control of But-Khak and took up position on the Siyah Sang Hills. South of the Kabul river, the old city and Hashmat Khan was held by forces loyal to Aminullah Khan Logari and 'Abd Allah Khan, they were backed by the Bayat Qizilbash and the Mullahs of the old city. Shirin Khan and his Jawanshir Qizilbash remained a neutral stance in Chindawal.
Siege of the Cantonment (5 November-23 December 1841)
Both Royalists and those loyal to Dost Mohammad had tried to enter a peace agreement for the withdrawal of British forces but in their favor, while also discussing in an anti-British alliance. One of these agreements led to Nawab Zaman Khan recognizing 'Abd Allah Khan Achakzai as commander-in-chief of all rebel forces in Kabul, this agreement however, did not last long. Nawab Zaman Khan, restless, and wanting to force Macnaughten into a peace, began attacking the cantonment with sniper fire and storming the qala's, which contained most the army's supplies and munitions. The loss meant that there was only three days worth of supply left of food, to which the fighting men were put on half rations, while non-combatants were left to fend for themselves. By late November, the situation had detiorated to the point where horses and camels were being slaughtered for food and to reduce the number of pack animals that also needed feeding.
Inside the cantonment, British officers and political commanders bickered over how to respond to the situation at hand. The situation was not much better as after Burnes's death, Elphinstone's horse stumbled and fell on top of him. Likely suffering damage to his internal organs, and already dealing with Gout, Elphinstone was forced to give orders from his sickbed. Adding on to the number of issues, Elphinstone was meant to have returned to India by this point, as a result, Shelton took this on as meaning that Elphinstone was no longer in command of the army, instead, Shelton took charge.
As grain and ammunition began running out, there were attempts to purchase supplies. Two of Kabul's leaders of the Armenian community helped provide supplies to the British. Khoja Mir, the Malik of Behmaru and father-in-law of Mir Masjidi also sold flour and fodder for heavily inflated prices, then using the cash obtained to finance Mir Masjidi. Mir Masjidi however, was not happy with this action, and as a result, shortly after his forces arrived in Kabul, they occupied Behmaru. ON 10 November, Shelton clashed with Mir Masjidi's Kohistanis, defeating them and occupying Behmaru. Shelton then advanced to Qal'a Rikab Bashi, and Qal'a-yi Zu'l-fiqar Khan and seized it by storm. Shelton also bombarded the Jabbar Khel positions on the Siyah Sang with his artillery. However despite his victories, Shelton lost too much men he could not expend in these battles, as following the fall of Old Charikar a day prior to the battle at Behmaru, thousands of more Kohistanis arrived in Kabul, bringing captured British artillery pieces, muskets, and ammunition. Mir Masjidi and his Kohistanis, now reinforced, re-occupied Behmaru and cut supplies to the cantonment. The Kohistanis then entrenched themselves at the summit of Tepa-Yi-Behmaru, as they begun firing upon the cantonment, making it dangerous for anybody who wandered into the open. Despite the protest of Shelton, Elphinstone ordered him and his men to take Tepa-yi Behmaru and clear it of the snipers that were harassing the British. Before dawn on 23 November, Shelton and his men took control of the eastern slope without any direct opposition. Shelton then lead his artillery pieces to fire on Behmaru village from above. The Kohistanis retreated to the cover of houses, and when Shelton attempted to capitalize on this by sending his men down, they were ambushed. Being harassed from all sides, the storming force retreated back up the hill. The noise of the battle however, woke the Muhammadzais and the Ghilzais in the Shah Bagh, as they armed themselves, they rushed up the eastern flank adjacent to Qal'a-yi Musa'hill, attempting to storm the western side of Behmaru. Shelton, as a result, was forced to divide his forces to repulse the attack, while also stationing an army on the eastern slope to prevent any storming by Mir Masjidi's men. When he confronted the Ghilzai-Muhammadzai armies, his forces were picked apart as the British brown bess muskets were not in reach with the Afghan forces. With Shelton on the brink of defeat, he ordered his men to form two squares, the standard european Infantry defense for facing charging infantry or cavalry, however very ineffective against the Afghan snipers. The battle became a "turkey shoot" as described by Jonathan lee, with Shelton ordering his men to hold their ground, holding the enemy at bay with grapeshot. However when the gun was overheated, it was seized by the Ghilzais storming up the slope. After a short hand-hand struggle, the British were routed and fled back down the hill, facing many dead and wounded that would be even worse if Sardar 'Osman Khan had not ordered his men to halt their fire.
In the aftermath of the rout, Shelton informed Elphinstone that he was no longer able to sally troops from the cantonment due to the lack of men, as from this point on, the high command were trying to see how they could negotiate a withdrawal that would not result in them being faced with humilation, seeking to make peace while also discussing on which faction to make peace with. Since this was a political matter, Elphinstone gave the regard of this to Macnaghten, who in turn, handed it to Lieutenant Trevor to try and negotiate such. Despite the British losses, the Afghan rebels also faced heavy loss, with Shelton's grapeshot having wreaked havoc among Mir Masjidi's men. Several key leaders were either killed or mortally wounded, such as Shah Muhammad Khan of Nijrab, 'Abd Allah Khan Achakzai, who was shot dead, likely to be an assassin amidst the battle. Two of 'Abd Allah Khan's and Aminullah Khan Logari's sons were killed, while two nephews of Dost Mohammad were also killed. Mir Masjidi, who had been severely wounded in a prior encounter died a few days after the battle, with rumors that he was poisoned. Upon his death, his followers left Kabul and returned to the Koh Daman to bury their pir. Leaving Behmaru essentially undefended. However, instead of exploiting the rebels current issues, Elphinstone and Shelton held in passive defense, allowing the Afghan rebels to reorganize and bring reinforcements.
Return to Rule of Kabul (April 1842-9 June 1863)
After the end of the First Anglo-Afghan War in 1842, Dost Mohammad Khan was now in a position to expand his state dramatically. This was in part due to the improving relationship between Dost Mohammad Khan and the British. During his exile in Calcutta, he was treated warmly.
He took note of the technological superiority of the British and was convinced that constant wars with them would damage Afghanistan. Instead, Dost Mohammad would advocate for an alliance with the British as the only way to ensure the survival of the state.[page needed] With the First and Second Anglo-Sikh Wars eliminating any threat that the volatile Sikh Empire would have had on Afghanistan, Dost Mohammad Khan was now able to freely expand his kingdom with the help of the British, realizing that he and British had common Central Asian goals.
In 1843, Dost Mohammad Khan subdued the Hazarajat (Behsud, Dai Zangi, Dai Kundi) and Bamian, which had seized the power vacuum during the British invasion to become independent.[page needed] In 1846, a rebellion by the Kohistani Tajiks of Tagab was suppressed and Dost Mohammad was able to consolidate his position on that traditionally rebellious area.[page needed] In July 1848, he intended to send a force to conquer Balkh but the Second Anglo-Sikh War prevented this and occupied Dost Mohammad for another year. The Sikhs proposed to cede Peshawar to the Afghans (although it never became a reality) and as a result, Mohammad sent 5,000 Afghans under Mohammad Akram Khan to aid the Sikhs in the war.[page needed] When the Sikhs were defeated and the British retook Peshawar, it was feared in Kabul that the British would follow up their victory by invading Afghanistan. However, this never happened and Dost Mohammad therefore sent his son, Mohammad Akram Khan, to invade Balkh in the Spring of 1849.[page needed]
Conquest of the Balkh Wilayat
The invasion of Balkh was successful and the province was annexed into Afghanistan. When Afzal Khan would take materials from the dilapidated city of Balkh and use it to construct a cantonment known as Takhtapul nearby, so that by 1854 Takhtapul was a fully grown city complete with gardens and courts. In 1850 Mohammad Akram Khan's half brother, Ghulam Haidar Khan, conquered Tashqurghan and the Mir Wali was forced to flee.
Alliance with the British
On 30 March 1855, Dost Mohammad reversed his former policy by concluding an offensive and defensive alliance with the British government, signed by Sir Henry Lawrence, Chief Commissioner of the Punjab, first proposed by Herbert Edwardes. In November 1855, he conquered Kandahar. In 1857, he declared war on Persia in conjunction with the British, and in July, a treaty was concluded by which the province of Herat was placed under a Barakzai prince. During the Indian Rebellion of 1857, Dost Mohammad refrained from assisting the insurgents. His later years were disturbed by troubles at Herat and in Bukhara.
Conquest of Herat and death
In March 1862, Ahmad Khan, the ruler of Herat, captured Farah, which had been controlled by the Barakzai Emirs since 30 October 1856. This became Dost Mohammad Khan's cassus belli to launch an attack on Herat. On 29 June or 8 July, Farah was captured by the Muhammadzais. On 22 July, Sabzawar was captured. By 28 July, Herat was besieged. After a 10-month siege on 27 May 1863, he captured Herat, but on 9 June, he died suddenly in the midst of victory, after playing a great role in the history of South and Central Asia for forty years. He named his son, Sher Ali Khan, as his successor. He was buried in Herat at the Gazurgah. By the time of his death, the annual state revenue of his government had risen to 7 million rupees.
Dost Mohammad Khan as Emir of Afghanistan.
Dōst Moḥammad Khan seated slightly to the right of center in this photograph, with the long white beard. To Dōst Moḥammad's right, the first figure in a white chapan (overcoat) is his son and successor Sher ʻAlī Khān (1825–1879), who ruled Afghanistan from 1863 to 1879. Abd al-Raḥmān Khān (c. 1844 – 1901), the grandson of Dōst Mohammad and future “Iron Amir” of Afghanistan, is on Dōst Moḥammad's far left.
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