Anglo-Afghan Wars

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Anglo-Afghan Wars


colonial wars waged by England against Afghanistan.

The first Anglo-Afghan war (1838–42) began with the invasion of southwest Afghanistan in December 1838 by an English force of over 30,000 men. In 1839, English troops occupied Kandahar, Ghazni, and Kabul. An anti-English partisan war began in response to this. The November 1841 uprising in Kabul resulted in the annihilation of the occupying army and the death of the English protege Shah Shuja. By the end of 1842, the remnants of the English force had left Afghanistan.

The second Anglo-Afghan war (1878–80) began with the invasion of Afghanistan by a British force of 36,000 men, which occupied Kandahar in January 1879. Emir Yakub Khan concluded the treaty of Gandamak with England which led to a popular uprising in September 1879. On July 27, 1880, at Maiwand (near Kandahar), Afghan forces destroyed an English brigade. An army of nearly 100,000 insurgents besieged the British at Kabul. England was forced to renounce its plans to conquer Afghanistan; however, by the agreement of 1880 with Emir Abdu-al-Rahman, English control was established over the country’s foreign policy.

The third Anglo-Afghan War (1919) was initiated by England after Emir Amanullah proclaimed Afghanistan’s independence. Military actions began May 3. The English had numerical and technical superiority—the English army had approximately 340,000 men, while the Afghan army had 40,000. The British won the battle at the Khyber Pass, but Afghan forces besieged the fortress of Tal in the Waziristan region on May 27. The aggressor’s situation was made more difficult by the anti-British uprising of the Pashto border tribes and by the upsurge of the liberation movement in India. A truce was signed on June 3, and a preliminary peace treaty on Aug. 8, 1919, in Rawalpindi. Important factors in Afghanistan’s success in the third Anglo-Afghan war were the moral and political support it received from Soviet Russia, which was the first to recognize the independence of Afghanistan, and the victory of the Soviet people over the interventionists, particularly the rout of the British interventionists in the Transcaspian region.


Reisner, I. M. Afghanistan. Moscow, 1929.
Babakhodzhaev, M. A. Bor’ba Afganistana za nezavisimost’: 1838–1842. Moscow, 1960.
Khalfin, N. A. Proval britanskoi agressii v Afganistane. Moscow, 1959.
Akhramovich, R. T. “Velikaia Oktiabr’skaia revoliutsiia i utver-zhdenie natsionarnoi nezavisimosti Afghanistana.” In the collection Velikii Oktiabr i narody Vostoka: 1917–1957. Moscow, 1957.
Babakhodzhaev, A. Kh. Proval angliiskoi politiki v Srednei Azii i na Srednem Vostoke (1918–1924). Moscow, 1962. Chapter 2.
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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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