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Why are Empires Buried in Afghanistan?
by Major Mehar Omar Khan
Hubris hates history and the latter keeps thus getting an opportunity to repeat itself. Nowhere is this as true as the killing fields of Afghanistan. The sad saga of First Anglo-Afghan War shows how lives of so many were lost in the merciless gorges and blood-thirsty passes between Kabul and Jalalabad, mainly because of the strategic blunders, outright dishonesty and unforgivable chicanery of a few. The story of this war also reveals that, more than the fierce Afghan or his treacherous terrain, the inept and indecisive leadership of the empire was to blame for getting buried in Afghanistan and helping that land become the 'graveyard of empires'.
Some trivia to start with. The war lasted from 1839 to 1842. Amir Dost Muhammad Khan, a Durrani Pashtun, was the legitimate King of Afghanistan before being ousted by the Anglo-Indian army of occupation. The name of the puppet installed by the British was Shah Shuja -- a man expelled in disgrace years before the war and someone who could never hope to step beyond Khyber Pass without foreign assistance.
As seemingly ear-less wise men continue to blunder in that unfortunate land, here are some echoes from the past. Instead of counting the trees, I have focused on the big picture to see how a war that happened 170 years ago could shed some light on the one being fought today.
Major Mehar Omar Khan, Pakistan Army, is currently a student at the US Army Command and General Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. He has served as a peacekeeper in Sierra Leone, a Brigade GSO-III, an instructor at the Pakistan Military Academy in Kakul, and as Chief of Staff (Brigade Major) of an infantry brigade. He has also completed the Command and Staff Course at Pakistan's Command and Staff College in Quetta.