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Download The Dark Defile: Britain's Catastrophic Invasion of Afghanistan, 1838-1842 eBook

by Diana Preston

Download The Dark Defile: Britain's Catastrophic Invasion of Afghanistan, 1838-1842 eBook
ISBN:
0802779824
Author:
Diana Preston
Category:
Humanities
Language:
English
Publisher:
Walker Books; 1 edition (February 14, 2012)
Pages:
320 pages
EPUB book:
1522 kb
FB2 book:
1867 kb
DJVU:
1665 kb
Other formats
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Rating:
4.9
Votes:
344


Preston's The Dark Defile is a bit uneven in the telling of Britain's incursion into Afghanistan, but her evaluation and conclusions are spot on. Concerned about protecting India from Russian influence (the "Great Game" as Kipling.

Preston's The Dark Defile is a bit uneven in the telling of Britain's incursion into Afghanistan, but her evaluation and conclusions are spot on. The interplay between personalities (both English and Afghan) and the gross cultural misunderstanding betweent the two was a strength of the book.

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The annihilation left Britain and India in shock and the Governor General . Retreat from Kabul: The Catastrophic British Defeat in Afghanistan, 1842.

The annihilation left Britain and India in shock and the Governor General, Lord Auckland, suffered an apparent stroke upon hearing the news. In the Autumn of 1842 an "Army of Retribution" led by Sir George Pollock, with William Nott and Robert Sale commanding divisions, leveled the great bazaar and all the larger buildings of Kabul. Sale personally rescued his wife Lady Sale and some other hostages from the hands of Wazir Akbar Khan. Even after the two British invasions of his country, he did not intervene in any manner during the Indian Rebellion of 1857.

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Within four years, it had been utterly defeated.

Author: Diana Preston. On the life and activities of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, b. 1948, leader of the Islamic Party (Hizb-i Islami) of Afghanistan. Binding: Hardback – 2012. Once upon a Time there was a Bookseller in Kabul. This is a rare glimpse into Afghanistan from an Afghan viewpoint - from a writer who fought back after his.

Manufacturer: Walker & Company Release date: 14 February 2012 ISBN-10 : 0802779824 ISBN-13: 9780802779823.

Diana Preston’s The Dark Defile describes the disastrous occupation of Afghanistan by Britain from 1839 to 1842

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Convinced in 1838 that Britain's invaluable empire in India was threatened by Russia, Persia, and Afghan tribes, the British government ordered its Army of the Indus into Afghanistan to oust from power the independent-minded king, Dost Mohammed, and install in Kabul the unpopular puppet ruler Shah Shuja. Expecting a quick campaign, the British found themselves trapped by unforeseen circumstances; eventually the tribes united and the seemingly omnipotent army was slaughtered in 1842 as it desperately retreated through the mountain passes from Kabul to Jalalabad. Only one Briton survived uncaptured. Diana Preston vividly recounts the drama of this First Afghan War, one of the opening salvos in the strategic rivalry between Britain and Russia for supremacy in Central Asia. As insightful about geography as she is about political and military miscalculation, Preston draws on rarely documented letters and diaries to bring alive long-lost characters-Lord Auckland, the weak British governor-general in India; his impetuous aide William Macnaghten; and the prescient adventurer-envoy Alexander Burnes, whose sage advice was steadfastly ignored. A model of compelling narrative history, The Dark Defile is a fascinating exploration of nineteenth-century geopolitics, and a cautionary tale that resonates loudly today.

  • GODMAX
This book is an eye-opener on Afghanistan from almost 175 years ago that provides lessons still relevant today.

Because the British had concerns for India from the possibility of threats from Russia, they looked to the territores across the Indus River as a buffer to protect their interests in the subcontinent. The region of the Indus River is one of the oldest cradles of civilization, similiar to Mesopotamia. This region contains Afghanistan, the Punjab, which was ruled by the martial Sikhs, under Ranjit Singh, and Sind, which controlled the delta of the Indus and dominated access to the Arabian Sea. (The author provides two valuable maps of the region and Kabul.)

The cast of characters of the natives of this region is very extensive. While the author does a meticulous job of a confusing who's who, you are better off staying with the main players, as so many of them had so many sons by various wives that it is difficult to recall. You will become familiar with Shah Shuje, the exiled king of Afghanistan, Dost Mohammed, current king of Afghanistan, and his son, the treacherous Akbar Khan.

The British list must start with the Governor-General of India, Lord Auckland, described as a man rather without vices than possessing virtues, then we follow with his aide William Macnaghten, the envoy Alexander Burnes, the imcompetent General William Elphinstone and a host of lesser player. In the end, the British decided it would be in their best interest to encourage Ranjit Singh to invade Afghanistan and impose the elderly and unpopular Shah Shuje on the people and throw out Dost Mohammed. Auckland did seek the advise of Sir Henry Fane, his experienced military commander in chief, on the extent of direct British military involvement. Fane advised that "every advance you might make beyond the Sutlej to the westward, in my opinion adds to your military weakness. Consolidate in India and make yourselves complete soverigns of all within your bounds. But let alone the far west." If only they had listened. But, Auckland was intent on invading and a 21,000 man Army of the Indus began the grueling journey into Afghanistan in 1838.

You learn of the dangers of moving an army through the dangerous passes into Afghanistan, all of them at greater elevations where frigid temperatures and cold cause so many problems, especially when you decide to move so much of the baggage and detrius of war on camels. First the Bolan Pass at 5880 ft. elevation. If that is not enough, they travel on to the Khojura Pass at 7,500 feet where teams of men laboriously pull up artillery and just as dangerously try to hold it back as it then makes the journey down precipitous slopes. By 6 August 1839, the Army of the Indus camped within three miles of Kabul, where Dost Mohammed had already departed from. Lord Auckland had intended to withdraw the army once Shah Shuje was enthroned, but Dost Mohammed was at large and so the whole thing starts to go south for the British.

Without going into too much detail and summarizing the book, the British made a lot of bad decisions logistically in Kabul and strategially overall. The Afghan tribes, always in-fighting, now united against the British and became more hostile to the garrison and those living in the town, and by Novemeber 1841, envoy Burnes was murdered by a mob and hacked to pieces, and in January 1842, the same fate called on Macnaghten.

Under the poor leadership of General Elphinstone (who could have likely squashed the uprising in Kabul if he showed determination and was not suffering from a paralysis of decision making) the disastrous decision to leave Kabul and try to make it out was made. The result was a true catastrophy. They knew they would leave Kabul under attack and it was January 1842, in the dead of an Afghan winter. How his generals and advisors could let him come to such a decision is beyond me. I would prefer to stand, fight and die rather than to freeze to death which is what many of them did as they trudged though winds and subzero temperatures without adequate shelter, tents, food etc. It is hard to read of the suffering and slaughter of so many of this group and how they were ambushed and attacked by various tribes of Afghans after promises were repeatedly broken by Akbar Khan and agreed upon terms were ignored. In the end, virtually all were killed or dead from exposure and most of the women of the British officers and political envoys were either killed or held hostage. The closest thing to a British hero was Lady Sale, wife of Fighting Bob Sale who headed a garrison at Jalalabad. Her diary kept through captivity as a hostage is most fascinating.

It is a textbook example, in my opinion, of how when the British get it wrong, they do a bang up job of it, and also illustrates that the Afghans leaders were a duplicitious, theiving, brutal and clever bunch. Even today, Diana Preston makes the point that Vice President Joe Biden told Hamid Karzai he was merely the major of Kabul. He is simply the American puppet installed whom we support with vast amounts of aid and military supplies. Sometimes I wonder if America is more clever now than Britain was then.

I recommend the book not only as history, but as a lesson in modern day geo-political events. It is for serious historians and not a casual read, and I have to warn the potential reader that there are parts that will break your heart.
  • *Nameless*
The book is okay and was not difficult to read. The major problem I have with the work is not with what is in it, but what is missing. The book covers Britain's attempted occupation and concentrates (most of the text) on the actual troops, movements, and harrowing escapes throughout Afghanistan. What I would have liked to see more of was the political ramifications back in Britain and the political/social ramifications in Afghanistan. I like Mrs. Preston's use of original source documents from those who were involved. Mrs. Preston also did well by showing the interactions of the soldiers on both sides. What Mrs. Preston put into the book I found readable, enjoyable, but only to the level of being okay. For those wanting a broader understanding of how Afghanistan has been in middle of the "Great Game" or its position in modern world you want to keep looking. If you are looking for brief, well written synopsis of couple of years of British troop movements and withdrawal from Afghanistan then this will work.
  • Oghmaghma
Preston's _The Dark Defile_ is a bit uneven in the telling of Britain's incursion into Afghanistan, but her evaluation and conclusions are spot on. Concerned about protecting India from Russian influence (the "Great Game" as Kipling refered to it), the British made a series of horribly poor decisions that predictably ended badly for them in the First Afghan War, their lack of learning from experience similarly played out in the Second Afghan War, and whose lessons the United States should have considered before its invasion in the fall of 2001.

The lack of adequate maps - both of the region as well as of the area around Kabul - was a serious detriment in following the historical narrative, and the details of the occupation and retreat from Kabul was a bit fuzzy (I assume, based on previous reviews, this is the function of having a co-author.) The interplay between personalities (both English and Afghan) and the gross cultural misunderstanding betweent the two was a strength of the book. The real treasure, however, is in Preston's assessment of the conflict. In considering the reasons behind the disaster that was the First Afghan War, a number of excellent points are made:

(1) "leaders were not honest with themselves or their public about their motivation, providing partial and misleading information to both Parliament and public ..."
(2) "The British entered Afghanistan without clear objectives or a defined exit strategy or timetable. In what could be termed *regime change*, they endeavored to impose onthe country a ruler unpopular with his people."
(3) "British intelligence was poor. ... Their knowledge of the terrain was sketchy, and they were ignorant until too late of the tribal nature of the poliitcs of country ... They did not understand that these tribes united only rarely and that when they did so it was against a foreign invader such as themselves."
(4) "Many senior British officers' only experience of action had been in the defeat of Napoleon. ... The British learned that it was both difficult to recruit and train Afghan troops loyal to Shah Shujah and when they did so found their loyalty and performance in battle unreliable."
(5) "In general, British trooops struggled to distinguish between hostile and peaceful Afghans, both in Kabul and in the countryside ..."
(6) "The British and the Afghans alike had problems in understanding each other's cultures and characters."
(7) "Changes in government in Britain changed policy in Afghanistan."

If one replaces "British" with "American" (and "Parliament" with "Congress") the parallels are disturbing. One hopes that, unlike the British, the Americans will not return once they have left. The similarities of the British experience with the American occupation is apparently not lost on Afghans, either, Preston writing that "a recent Taliban recruiting slogan asked Afghans, 'Do you want to be remembered as a son of Dost Mohammad (the Afghan leader who fought against the British) or a son of Shah Shuja (the puppet ruler the British sought to place on the throne)?" It is a haunting and frustrating read - the arrogance and self-righteousness of the English is maddening, their political and military blunders largely unnecesssary. It is all the more frustrating to see many of the same mistakes repeated. Recommended, in spite of its rough spots in the narrative.
  • Cargahibe
If you are into history of the Middle East in the 1800's, especially the "great game" as it was called in Victorian England, this is one of the books to read! It reveals much of the politics and double dealing, as well as the assumptions and beliefs that led to many of the issues that we are leading up to WW 1, and the issues bedeviling the the world, today. Somewhat dry in places, but interesting reading!