Chapter 1: The Birth of a Troubled Frontier

Afghanistan’s geopolitical location at the crossroads of Asia has often forced it into power struggles between major enemies and rivals in the region, “Afghanistan was not a frontier., or barrier for a frontier, but actually the centre of great empires” (Constable, 1879, p.51). It has therefore become important for these powers to create and have clear strategic frontiers from which to conduct necessary affairs to protect their respective spheres of influence.

The Indian Mughal Empire and the Persian Safavi empire were given loosely defined borders to rule in the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The arrival of the British in Central and Southern Asia in the late 18th Century, with the Treaty of Paris recognising their sovereignty in 1779, saw mem take the responsibility of defining such borders for Afghanistan in order to protect a growing empire against an ambitious Czarist Russia Afghanistan subsequently became a pawn in the ‘Great Game’ between British India and the Russian Empire. This meant heavy involvement in Afghanistan’s foreign affairs which the rulers of Afghanistan reluctantly accepted and which also created resentment among the Afghan people who were not so willingly susceptible to the grip of imperialism.

In an effort to minimise Czarist Russia’s threat in the ‘Great Game’ to British interests in Southern and Central Asia in the 19th Century, the British adopted a confrontational foreign policy towards the subjects that lay between these two regional rivals. This approach created resentment among the brutally resistant Pashtuns of the frontier tribes which the British failed to foresee. There was an underestimation of the task of subduing the tribes and the problem that was to be created from an adventurous policy towards the disinclined Pashtun tribes.

Continue reading – 1.1 An Adventurous Forward Policy