Anglo-Afghan Wars: War Three (May–August 1919)

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Anglo-Afghan Wars: War Three (May–August 1919)

From the end of the Second Afghan War until his death in 1901, Afghan amir Abdor Rahman preserved his slowly modernizing buffer state against Russian and British machinations along his frontiers. He chafed, however, at the British interpretation of his receipt of a subsidy as a mark of dependency, and he sought to gain British recognition of Afghan national sovereignty. Though he failed in these efforts, he remained a loyal British ally on the most practical of grounds: whereas Russia entertained notions of conquering Afghanistan en route to India, the British were not bent on conquering Afghanistan to facilitate the building of an empire in Central Asia. Abdor Rahman's son, Habibollah, continued to pursue his father's policies.

During and after World War I, Habibollah sought to aid the Ottoman Empire and those Muslims resisting the Russian revolution, but he was careful to avoid any step that might provoke a break with British India. His failure to offer greater support to these doomed Muslim enterprises further raised the ire of fundamentalist forces within Afghanistan already opposed to the modest steps he and his father had taken toward modernization and led to his assassination on 20 February 1919. That May, Habibollah's third son and ultimate successor, Amanollah, diverted the energies of his father's political opposition into what proved to be a quixotic invasion of British India. Though much depleted by the demands of World War I, the Indian army responded with its entire arsenal of modern arms, including aerial bombardment. Amanollah sued for peace after a month of unequal combat. The war had, however, achieved his most cherished objectives. It discredited the Muslim conservatives in Kabul and, through the 21 November amendments to the Treaty of Rawalpindi of 8 August 1919, it secured Britain's acknowledgment of Afghanistan's status as an independent sovereign state in full control of its own foreign affairs.

Marc Jason Gilbert

See alsoAfghanistan


Ali, Mohammed. Afghanistan: The War of Independence, 1919. Kabul: n.p., 1960.

Molesworth, George N. Afghanistan, 1919: An Account of Operations in the Third Afghan War. Mumbai: Asia Publishing House, 1962.

O'Ballance, Edgar. The Afghan Wars: 1939 to the Present. Rev. ed., London: Brassey's, 2002.

Robson, Brian. Crisis on the Frontier: The Third Afghan War and the Campaign in Waziristan 1919–1920. Staplehurst, U.K.: Spellmount Publishers, 2004.

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Anglo-Afghan Wars: War Three (May–August 1919)

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