Afghanistan: Defeat of an Empire (1841)

In 1839, British troops and Indian sepoys pour into Afghanistan in what turns out to be an unnecessary pre-emptive move to block a feared Russian expansion into the territory.

Their intent is to put a pliant puppet on the Kabul throne to ensure that the northwest frontier of their lucrative Indian colony remains secure.

The invading British make short work of the poorly armed Afghan defenders. However, once the occupation phase begin, the British become overconfident in their military superiority.

Prior to the invasion, Britain’s East India Company has paid the border tribes a tribute – or bribe – to allow their trade convoys safe passage through the Khyber Pass. Now that they have defeated the ragtag Afghan army and set up shop in Kabul, the East India Company decides to save themselves some money and cancel the tribute payments.

The result is that the Pashtun tribes along the border rise up in revolt and cut off the British supply lines from India.

Forced to retreat from Kabul in the fall of 1841, the British garrison suffers the most complete defeat in military history, with only one survivor – dressed as a woman – managing to elude the victorious Afghans.

In the end, all empires are defeated…



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