British Wars in Afghanistan

British Wars in Afghanistan

With the Russians continuing to make overtures to Afghanistan, George Eden, first earl of Auckland (1784–1849), arrived from England with orders to install a pro-British regime to keep the Russians at bay. He dispatched an army that marched through Sind on the way to Afghanistan, ignoring a treaty with the Mirs, as the Talpur chieftains of Sind were known. The 1832 treaty forbade passage of British forces or military stores along the Indus River or across Sind. Lord Auckland’s army joined another British force in Baluchistan. Once in Kabul the British installed their puppet, Shuja Shah, on the throne, but in 1841, while the British were on their way back to Jalalabad, near the Khyber Pass, a rebellion broke out. The retreating British forces were attacked, and most were slaughtered. Lord Auckland was recalled to England, though not much changed under his replacement, Edward Law, earl of Ellenborough (r. 1842–44). The British returned to Afghanistan to take Ghazni and Kabul, then withdrew. This marked the conclusion of the First Afghan War, which lasted from 1839 to 1842.

The Mirs of Sind allowed the British to penetrate their territory unimpeded. Perhaps emboldened by the lack of protest, the British forced a new, more onerous treaty on the Mirs, reducing their property and income. Sir James Outram (1803–63) was sent from England to enforce the treaty. The Mirs protested strongly, but their objections were met with a brutal British response from an army dispatched by Lord Ellenborough under the command of Sir Charles Napier (1782–1853). The British assault sparked an uprising in Baluchistan that culminated in an attack on the British residency in Hyderabad, Sind. Napier used the attack as a pretense to attack the rebel forces nearby at Miani and Dabo (1842–43), thereby conquering Sind. The Mirs were exiled, and Napier became Sind’s first British governor, provoking the anger of Muslims and Hindus alike.