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Kabul Catastrophe: The Invasion and Retreat 1839-1842

Kabul Catastrophe: The Invasion and Retreat 1839-1842 (Paperback)

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In 1839 a large British army invaded Afghanistan in order to place upon the throne a ruler deemed more friendly to the British in Delhi than the incumbent Dost Mohammed. Many voices in London warned against the foolhardy enterprise, among them that of the Duke of Wellington, who foresaw shame and disaster. The enterprise started well. The army conquered all before it, including reputedly impregnable fortresses. But only two years after being established in Kabul, attached on all sides by the hostile Afghans, the British retreated in mid-winter, 1842, trying to regain India. Of the 16,000 soldiers and others who left the city, only one person survived the journey as far as Jalalabad. It was one of the worse catastrophes to befall the British Empire. The First Afghan War, as the enterprise was dubbed, ended in miserable defeat and appalling massacre. It was the response of inexperienced political officers and soldiers to expanding Russian influence in central Asia. Britain wanted to forestall what they feared were Russian attempts to wrest the Indian possessions from the British crown. It was the famous Great Game. But is was no game.

The news of the disaster horrified the nation, till then only used to tales of victory in India. Many saw it as a punishment for a policy that was stupid and immoral. This retelling of the story of the war was written in 1968 by a descendent of one of the principal British participants, Eldred Pottinger.

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