1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Afghanistan
AFGHANISTAN, a country of Central Asia. Estimated area 245,000 sq. m. (including Badakshan and Kafiristan). Pop. about 5,000,000. It is bounded on the N. by Russian Turkestan, on the W. by Persia, and on the E. and S. by Kashmir and the independent tribes of the North-West Frontier of India and Baluchistan. The chief importance of Afghanistan in modern days is due to its position as a “buffer state” intervening between the two great empires of Asiatic Russia and British India. During the last quarter of the 19th century our knowledge of the country was greatly increased, and its boundaries on the N., E. and S. were strictly delimited. The second Afghan war of 1878-80 afforded an opportunity for the extension of wide geographical surveys on a scientific basis. The Russian-Afghan Boundary Commission of 1884-1886 resulted in the delimitation and mapping of the northern frontier. The Durand agreement of 1893 led to the partition of the Pathan tribes on the southern and eastern frontiers. The Pamir Commission of 1895 settled its north-eastern border. Finally the Perso-Baluch Commission of 1904-1905 defined its western face.
Beginning with the Persian border at Zulfikar on the Hari Rud river, the boundary between Afghanistan and Russia follows a line roughly parallel to the course of the Paropamisus, and about 35 m. to the north of it, till it strikes the Kushk river in Jamshidi territory at a point which was once known as Chahil Dukteran, but is now the Russian post Kushkinski, and the terminus of a branch railway from Merv. Kushkinski is about 20 m. below the old Jamshidi settlement of Kushk, which is the capital of Badghis. The settlement and the post originally called Kushk must not be confused together. From Kushkinski the boundary runs north-east, crossing the Murghab river near Maruchak (which is an Afghan fortress), and thence passes north-east through the hills of the Chul, and the undulating deserts of the Aleli Turkmans, to the Oxus, leaving the valleys of Charshamba and of Andkhui (to which it runs approximately parallel) within Afghan limits. These valleys denote the limits of cultivation in this direction. Throughout all this region the boundary is generally of an artificial character, marked by pillars, but it is here and there indicated by natural features forming local lines of water-parting or water-course. The boundary meets the Oxus at Khamiab at the western extremity of the cultivated district of Khwaja Salar, and from that point to the eastern end of Lake Victoria in the Pamirs the main channel of the Oxus river forms the northern limits of Afghanistan. (See Oxus.) Eastwards from Lake Victoria the frontier line was determined by the Pamir Boundary Commission of 1895. A part of the little Pamir is included in Afghan territory, but the boundary crosses this Pamir before the great bend northwards of the Aksu takes place, and, passing over a series of crags and untraversable mountain ridges, is lost on the Chinese frontier in the snowfields of Sarikol. Bending back westwards upon itself, the line of Afghan frontier now follows the water-parting of the Hindu Kush; and as the Hindu Kush absolutely overhangs the Oxus nearly opposite Ishkashim, it follows that, at this point, Afghanistan is about 10 m. wide. Thus a small and highly elevated portion of the state extends eastwards from its extreme north-eastern corner, and is attached to the great Afghan quadrilateral by the thin link of the Panja valley. These narrow limits (called Wakhan) include the lofty spurs of the northern flank of the Hindu Kush, an impassable barrier at this point, where the glacial passes reach 19,000 ft. in altitude, and the enclosing peaks 24,000 ft. The backbone or main water-divide of the Hindu Kush continues to form the boundary between Afghanistan and those semi-independent native states which fringe Kashmir in this mountain region, until it reaches Kafiristan.
From near the Dorah pass (14,800 ft.), which connects Chitral with the Panja (or Oxus) river, a long, straight, snow-clad spur reaches southwards, which divides the Kafiristan valley of Bashgol from that of Chitral, and this continues to denote the eastern limits of Afghanistan till it nearly touches the Chitral river opposite the village of Arnawai, 45 m. south of Chitral. Here the Bashgol and Chitral valleys unite and the boundary passes to the water-divide east of the Chitral river, after crossing it by a spur which leaves the insignificant Arnawai valley to the north; along this water-divide it extends to a point nearly opposite the quaint old town of Pashat in the Kunar valley (the Chitral river has become the Kunar in its course southwards), and then stretches away in an uneven and undefined line, dividing certain sections of the Mohmands from each other by hypothetical landmarks, till it strikes the Kabul river near Palosi. Thence following a course nearly due south, it reaches Landi Kotal. From the abutment of the Hindu Kush on the Sarikol in the Pamir regions to Landi Kotal, and throughout its eastern and southern limits, the boundary of Afghanistan touches districts which were brought under British political control with the formation of the North-West Frontier Provinces of India in 1901. From the neighbourhood of Landi Kotal the boundary is carried to the Safed Koh overlooking the Afridi Tirah, and then, rounding off the cultivated portions of the Kurram valley below the Peiwar, it crosses the Kaitu and passes to the upper reaches of the Tochi. Crossing these again, it is continued on the west of Waziristan, finally striking the Gomal river at Domandi. South of the Gomal it separates the interests of Afghanistan from those of Baluchistan, which here adjoins the North-West Frontier Province. From Domandi (the junction of the Kundar river with the Gomal) the Afghan boundary marches with that of Baluchistan. (See Baluchistan.) It is carried to the south-west on a line which is largely defined by the channels of the Kundar and the Kadanai to a point beyond the Sind-Peshin terminal station of New Chaman, west of the Khojak range, and then drops southward to Shorawak and Nushki. From Nushki it crosses the Helmund desert, touching the crest of a well-defined mountain watershed for a great part of the way, and, leaving Chagai to Baluchistan, it strikes nearly west to the Persian frontier, and joins it on the Koh-i-Malik Siah mountain, south of Seistan. Two points of this part of the Afghan boundary are notable. It leaves some of the most fanatical of the Durani Afghan people on the Baluch side of the frontier in the Toba district, north of the Quetta–Chaman line of railway; and it passes 50 m. south of the Helmund river, enclosing within Afghanistan the only approach to Seistan from India which is available during the seasons of Helmund overflow. Between Afghanistan and Persia the boundary was defined by Sir F. Goldsmid’s Commission in 1872 from the Mahk-Siah-Koh to the Helmund Lagoons, and rectified by the Commission under Sir Henry MacMahon in 1903–1905. Beyond these lagoons to Hashtadan it is still indefinite. The eastern limits of Hashtadan had been previously fixed as far north as the Hari Rud river at Toman Agha. From this point to Zulfikar the Hari Rud is itself the boundary.
Within the limits of this boundary Afghanistan comprises four main provinces, Northern Afghanistan or Kabul, Southern Afghanistan or Kandahar, Herat and Afghan Turkestan, together with the minor dependencies of the Ghilzai and Hazara Highlands, Ghazni, Jalalabad and Afghan provinces.Kafiristan. All these are described in separate articles. The kingdom of Kabul is the historic Afghanistan; the link which unites it to Kandahar, Herat and the other outlying provinces having been frequently broken and again restored by amirs of sufficient strength and capability. The Herat province is largely Persian, while Afghan Turkestan is chiefly Usbeg; and in neither is the sentiment of loyalty to the central government very strong. The bond is geographical and political rather than racial. The geographical divisions of the country are created by the basins of its chief rivers, the Kabul, the Helmund, the Hari Rud and the Oxus. The Kabul river drains Northern Afghanistan, the Hari Rud the province of Herat, and the Oxus that of Afghan Turkestan. Afghanistan is largely a country of mountains and deserts; but there are wide tracts of highly irrigated and most productive country where fruit is grown in such abundance as to become an important item in the export trade. The Afghans are expert agriculturists and make profitable use of all the natural sources of water-supply. As practical irrigation engineers they are only rivalled by the Chinese.The dominant mountain system of Afghanistan is the Hindu Kush, and that extension westwards of its water-divide which reindicated by the Koh-i-Baba to the north-west of Kabul, and by the Firozkhoi plateau (Karjistan), which merges still farther to the west by Mountain systemsgentle gradients into the Paropamisus, and which may be traced across the Hari Rud to Mashad.
The culminating peaks of the Koh-i-Baba overlooking the sources of the Hari Rud, the Helmund, the Kunduz and the Kabul very nearly reach 17,000 ft. in height (Shah Fuladi, the highest, is 16,870), and from them to the south-west long spurs divide the upper tributaries of the Helmund, and separate its basin from that of the Farah Rud. These spurs retain a considerable altitude, for they are marked by peaks exceeding 11,000 ft. They sweep in a broad band of roughly parallel ranges to the south-west, preserving their general direction till they abut on the Great Registan desert to the west of Kandahar, where they terminate in a series of detached and broken anticlinals whose sides are swept by a sea of encroaching sand. The long, straight, level-backed ridges which divide the Argandab, the Tarnak and Arghastan valleys, and flank the route from Kandaharto Ghazni. determining the direction of that route, are outliers of this system, which geographically includes the Khojak, or Kwaja Amran, range in Baluchistan.
North of the main water-parting of Afghanistan the broad synclinal plateau into which the Hindu Kush is merged is traversed by the gorges of the Saighan, Bamian and Kamard tributaries of the Kunduz, and farther to the west by the Band-i-Amir or Balkh river. Between the debouchment of the Upper Murghab from the Firozkhoi uplands into the comparatively low level of the valley above Bala Murghab, extending eastwards in a nearly straight line to the upper sources of the Shibarghan stream, the Band-i-Turkestan range forms the northern ridge between the plateau and the sand formations of the Chul. lt is a level, straight-backed line of sombre mountain ridge, from the crest of which, as from a wall, the extraordinary configuration of that immense loess deposit called the Chul can be seen stretching away northwards to the Oxus—ridge upon ridge, wave upon wave, like a vast yellow-grey sea of storm-twisted billows. The Band-i-Turkestan anticlinal may be traced eastwards of the Balkh-ab (the Band-i-Amir) within the folds of the Kara Koh to the Kunduz, and beyond; but the Kara Koh does not mark the northern wall of the great plateau nor overlook the sands of the Oxus plain, as does the Band-i-Turkestan. Here there intervenes a second wide synclinal plateau, of which the northern edge is defined n1y the flat outlines of the Elburz to the south of Mazar-itsharif, and immediately at the foot of this range lie the alluvial plains of Mazar and Tashkurghan. Opposite Tashkurghan the Oxus plain narrows to a short 25 m. On the south this great band of roughly undulatine central plateau is bounded by the Koh-i-Baba, to the west of Kabul, and by the Hindu Kush to the north and north-east of that city. Thus the main routes from Kabul to Afghan Turkestan must cross either one or other of these ranges, and must traverse one or other of the terrific defiles which have been carved out of them by the upper tributaries of the rivers running northwards towards the Oxus. Probably in no country in the world are there gathered together within comparatively narrow limits so many clean-cut waterways, measuring thousands of feet in depth, affording such a stupendous system of narrow roadways through the hills.
After the Hindu Kush and the Turkestan mountains, that range which divides Ningrahar (or the valley of Jalalabad) from Kurram and the Afridi Tirah, and is called Safed Koh (also the name of the range south of the Hari Rud), is the most important, as it is the most impressive, in Afghanistan.
The highest peak of the Safed Koh, Sikaram, is 15,600 ft. above sea-level. From this central dominating peak it falls gently towards the west, and gradually subsides in long spurs, reaching to within a few miles of Kabul and barring the road from Kabul to Ghazni. At a point which is not far east of the Kabul meridian an offshoot is directed southwards, which becomes the water-parting between the Kurram and the Logar at Shutargardan, and can be traced to a connexion with the great watershed of the frontier dividing the Indus basin from that of the Helmund. This main watershed retains its high altitude far to the south. There are peaks measuring over 12,000 ft. on the divide between the Tochi and the Ghazni plains.
So far as we know at present the geological history of Afghanistan differs widely from that of India. When, somewhere at the commencement of the Cretaceous period, the peninsula of India was connected by land with Madagascar and Southern Africa, all Afghanistan, Baluchistan and Geology.Persia formed part of an area which was not continuously below sea-level, but exhibited alternations of land and sea. The end of the Cretaceous period saw the beginning of a series of great earth movements ushered in by volcanic eruptions on a scale such as the earth has never since witnessed, which resulted in the upheaval of the Himalayas by a process of crushing and folding of the sedimentary rocks till marine fossils were forced to an altitude of 20,000 ft. above the sea. It was not till the Tertiary age, and even late in that age, that much of the land area of Afghanistan was raised above the sea-level. Then the ocean gradually retired into the great Central Asian depressions.
Everywhere there have been great and constant changes of level since that period, and the process of flexure and the formation of anticlinals traversing the northern districts of Afghanistan is a process which is still in action. So rapid has been the land elevation of Central Afghanistan that the erosive action of rivers has not been nble to keep pace with that of upheaval; and the result all through Afghanistan (but specially marked in the great central highlands between Kabul and Herat) is the formation of those immensely deep gorges and defiles which are locally known as daras. One of these, in the Astarab, to the south-east of Maimana, is but 30 yds. wide, and is enclosed between perpendicular limestone cliffs 1500 ft. high. C. L. Griesbach considers that the general outline of the land configuration has remained much the same since Pliocene times, and that the force which brought about the wrinkling of the older deposits still continues to add fold on fold. The highlands which shut off the Turkestan provinces from Southern Afghanistan have afforded the best opportunities for geological investigation, and as might be expected from their geographical position, the general result of the examination of exposed sections leads to the identification of geological affinity with Himalayan, Indian and Persian regions. The general configuration of the Turkestan highlands has been already indicated.
Against the last great fold which terminates this mountain area northwards are ranged the Tertiaries and recent deposits. North of Maimana they form low undulating loess hills, in which most of the Band-i-Turkestan drainage is lost. This wide-spreading loess area, formed partly of wind-blown sand and partly of detritus from the mountains, is known as Chul, and merges into the great plains south of the Oxus river, a great part of which is covered with modern aerial deposits. Beneath this Chul formation the older beds of the outer and Turkestan ranges dip and pass to an irregular outcrop near the banks of the Oxus. Between the Oxus and the hills there has already been formed a rise or flexure in the ground, which extends more or less parallel to the northern edge of the hills, and, shutting in the cultivated area of the plains, arrests all tributaries seeking to effect a junction with the Oxus from the south, and leads to the formation of marshes and swamps. This appears to be the beginning of a new anticlinal which has altered the levels of the Balkh plain, and is indicative of those elevating processes which may have been effective within historic times in changing the climate and the agricultural prospects of this part of Central Asia. The Oxus itself is steadily encroaching on its right banks and depositing detritus on the left.
No fresh discoveries of minerals likely to be of high economic value to Afghanistan have been made of late years. Such as are known and worked at present have been worked from very ancient times, and their capacity is not likely to develop greatly under the Kabul government. The most important feature in this connexion which was noted by the geologist of the Russo-Afghan Commission is the existence of vast coal beds in northern Afghanistan. In 1903 some coal mines were discovered in the Jagdalak districts.
There are no glaciers now to be found in Afghan Turkestan; but evidences of their recent existence are abundant. The great boulder bed terraces in some of the valleys of the northern slopes of the Ferozkhoi plateau are probably of glacial origin. In the mountains west of Kabul glaciers have retired, leaving the moraines perfectly undisturbed. They are probably contemporary with the older alluvia. (T. H. H.*)
The oldest rocks which have yet been identified in Afghanistan occur along the axis of the main watershed, and have been referred Rocks to the Carboniferous. At Robat-i-Pai near Herat, for example, there is a dark Productus limestone which seems to be identical with the Productus limestone of the Central Himalayas. These beds are conform ably succeeded, along the Central Asian watershed, by a continuous series of strata which apparently represent the Permian, Trias and Jurassic of Europe. They consist of marine beds alternating with freshwater and littoral deposits, together with plant beds and coal-seams of considerable thickness. The lowest beds of this series, which from their position may belong either to the Permian or to the upper part of the Carboniferous, have yielded no recognizable fossils; but they include a conglomerate which closely resembles the boulder bed near the base of the Talchir series in India. The Upper Trias has been definitely identified by the occurrence of Halobia and other fossils; while in the higher beds of the series marine forms belonging to the middle and upper Jurassic have been found.
The plant beds occur at several horizons, and among the remains which have been found in them are several forms which occur also in the Gondwana beds of India. There can be no doubt that the series as a whole is the equivalent of the Gondwana system, and when the country has been more closely examined the association of marine fossils with Gondwana plants will be of the greatest value in determining the precise homo taxis of the Indian deposits.
The Jurassic beds are followed, generally with perfect conformity, by the Cretaceous, which covers a large part of Afghan Turkestan and probably forms the greater part of the ranges which run south and south-west from the principal watershed. The lowest beds consist of red grits which contain Neocomian fossils, while the middle and upper Cretaceous consist chiefly of limestone and chalk. The entire system may be represented in the west, but in the Herat province and in Afghan Turkestan the middle Cretaceous seems to be absent, and it is probable that, as in other regions, the upper Cretaceous covers a much wider area than the lower beds. Tertiary and recent deposits are widely spread, filling most of the valleys and covering the plains of the Helmund. Eocene beds have not yet been proved to exist; but this is probably owing to the imperfect knowledge of the country, for the formation is known in Persia, Baluchistan and the Suliman Hills. The lower part of the Miocene is marine in Herat and Afghan Turkestan; but the upper Miocene is usually of freshwater or estuarine origin. In Afghanistan, as in other regions near the great Eurasian system of folds, the Miocene includes extensive deposits of gypsum and salt. It was during this period that the forces which finally raised the country above the level of the sea began to take effect. The Pliocene consists entirely of freshwater and terrestrial deposits, which were probably laid down at the foot of the rising hills and on the floors of the intervening valleys. As the elevation continued, they were sometimes involved in the folding to which the mountains owe their origin. Durin this period the gradual desiccation of the country continued, and wind-blown deposits, such as the loess, began to make their appearance.
Although volcanic cones are known both in Persia and in Baluchistan, none have yet been described in Afghanistan itself. There is, however, ample evidence that at several distinct geological periods the region has been the seat of great volcanic activity. According to C. L. Griesbach, basic volcanic rocks are inter bedded with the lowest part of the plant-bearing series, and enormous outbursts took place during the Neocomian period. But the most important igneous masses are the great intrusions of syenitic granite and of basic rock which penetrate the Cretaceous beds. These are probably of Eocene or of late Cretaceous age. (P. La.)
Omitting the group of northern routes to India from Central Asia, which pass between Kashmir and Afghanistan Roads and
passes. through the defiles of Chitral and of the Indus (see Hindu Kush), the highways of Afghanistan may be classed under two heads; (1) Foreign trade routes, and (2) Internal communications.
(1) Of the many routes which cross the frontiers of Afghanistan the most important commercially are those which connect the Oxus regions and the Central Asian khanates with Kabul, and those which lead from Kabul, Ghazni and Kandahar to the plains of India. Kabul is linked with Afghan Turkestan and Badakshan by three main lines of communication across the Koh-i-Baba and the Hindu Kush. One of these routes follows the Balkh river to its head from Tashkurghan, and then, preserving a high general level of 8000 to 9000 ft., it passes over the water-divides separating the upper tributaries of the Kunduz river, and drops into the valley formed by another tributary at Bamian. From Bamian it passes over the central mountain chain to Kabul either by the well-known passes of Irak (marking the water-divide of the Koh-i-Baba) and of Unai (marking the summit of the Sanglakh, a branch of the Hindu Kush), or else, turning eastwards, it crosses into the Ghorband valley by the Shibar, a pass which is considerably lower than the Irak and is very seldom snowbound. From the foot of the Unai pass it follows the Kabul river, and from the foot of the Shibar it follows the circuitous route which is offered by the drainage of the Ghorband valley to Charikar, and thence southwards to Kabul. The main points on this route are Haibak, Bajgah and Bamian. It is full of awkward grades and minor passes, but it does not maintain a high level generally, no pass (if the Shibar route be adopted) much exceeding 10,000 ft. That this has for centuries been regarded as the main route northward from Kabul, the Buddhist relics of Bamian and Haibak bear silent witness; but it may be doubted whether Abdur Rahman's talent for road making has not opened out better alternative lines. One of his roads connects Haibak with the Ghorband valley by the Chahardar pass across the Hindu Kush. The pass is high (nearly 14,000 ft.), but the road is excellently well laid out, and the route, Which, south of Haibak, traverses a corner of the Ghori and Baghlan districts of Badakshan, is more direct. A third route also passes through Badakshan, and connects Kunduz with Charikar by the Khawàk pass and Panjshir river. The latter joins the Ghorband close to Charikar. The Khawàk (11,600 ft.) is not a high pass; the grades are easy and the snowfall usually light. This high road is stated (on Afghan authority) to be kept open for khafila traffic all the year round by the employment of forced labour for clearing snow. It is a recently developed route and one of great importance to Kabul, both strate ically and commercially.
Routes that pass through the mountain barriers of the frontier between Peshawar and the Gomaloccur at intervals along the western border, and in the northern section of the Indian frontier they are all well marked. The Khyber, Kurram and Tochi are the best known, inasmuch as all these lines of advance into Afghanistan are held by British troops or Indian levies. But the Bara valley route into the heart of the Afridi Tirah is not to be altogether overlooked, although it is not a trade route of any importance. Between Kabul and Jalalabad there are two roads, one by the Lataband pass, and the other and more difficult by the Khurd-Kabul and Jagdalak passes, the latter being the scene of the massacre of a British brigade in 1842. Between lalalabad and Peshawar is the Khyber pass (q.v.). The Khyber was not in ancient times the main route of advance from Kabul to Peshawar. From Kabul the old route followed the Kabul river through the valley of Laghman (or Lamghan, as the Afghans call it) over a gentle water-parting into the Kunar valley, leaving Ningrahar and lalalabad to the south. From the Kunar it crossed into Bajour by one of several open and comparatively easy passes, and from Bajour descended into India either by the Malakand or some other contiguous frontier gateway to the plains of Peshawar.
The Kurram route involves the Peiwar and Shutargardan passes (8600 and 10,800 ft. respectively) across the southern extensions of the Safed Koh range, and has never been a great trade route, however suitable as an alternative military line of advance.
Trade does not extend largely between Afghanistan and India by the Tochi route, being locally confined to the valley and the districts at its head, yet this is the shortest and most direct route between Ghazni and the frontier, and in the palmy days of Ghazni raiding was the road by which the great robber Mahmud occasionally descended on to the Indus plains. Traces of his raiding and road» making are still visible, but it is certain that he made use of the more direct route to Peshawar far more frequently than he did of the Tochi. The exact nature of the connexion between the head of the Tochi and the Ghazni plain is still unknown to us.
The Gomal is the great central trade route between Afghanistan and India; and the position, which is held by a tribal post at Wana, will do much to ensure its continued popularity. The Gomal involves no passes of any great difficulty, although it is impossible to follow the actual course of the river on account of the narrow defiles which have been cut through the recent conglomerate beds which flank the plains of the Indus. It has been carefully surveyed for a possible railway alignment; and an excellent road now connects (at its foot) with the Zhob line of communications to Quetta, and with Wana on the southern flank of Waziristan. The Gomal route is of immense importance, both as a commercial and strategic line, and in both particulars is of far greater significance than either the Kurram or the Tochi.
(2) Of the interior lines of communication, those which connect the great cities of Afghanistan, Herat, Kabul and Kandahar, are obviously the most important. Between Kabul and Herat there is no “royal” road, the existing route passing over the frequently snow-bound wastes that lie below the southern flank of the great Koh-i-Baba into the upper valleys of the Hari Rud tributaries. lt is a waste, elevated, desolate region that the route traverses, and the road itself is only open at certain seasons of the year. Between Kabul and Kandahar exists the well-known and oft-traversed route by Ghazni and Kalat-i-Ghilzai. There is but one insignificant water-parting—or kotal—a little to the north of Ghazni; and the road, although unmade, may be considered equal to any road of its length in Europe for military purposes. Berween Kandahar and Herat there is the recognized trade route which crosses the Helmund at Girishk and passes through Farahand Sabzawar. It includes about 360 miles of easy road, with spaces where water is scarce. There is not a pass of any great importance, nor a river of any great difficulty, to be encountered from end to end, but the route is flanked on the north between Kandahar and Girishk by the Zamindawar hills, containing the most truculent and fanatical clans of all the Southern Afghan tribes. Little need be said of the 65 m. of route between Kandahar and the Baluchistan frontier at New Chaman. It is on the whole a route across open plains and hard, stony “dasht”—a route which would offer no great difficulties to that railway extension from Olhaman which has so long been contemplated. A very considerable trade now passes along this route to India, in spite of almost prohibitive imposts; but the trade does not follow the railway from New Chaman to the eastern foot of the Khojak. Long strings of camels may still be seen from the train windows patiently treading their slow way over the Khoiak pass to Kila Abdullah, whilst the train alongside them rapidly twists through the mountain tunnel into the Peshin valley.
The variety of climate is immense, as might be expected. Taking the highlands of the country as a whole, there is no great difference between the mean temperature of Afghanistan and that of the lower Himalayas. Each may be placed at a point between 50° and 60° F.Climate. But the remarkable feature of Afghan climate (as also of that of Baluchistan) is its extreme range of temperature within limited periods. The least daily range in the north is during the cold weather, the greatest in the hot. For seven months of the year (from May to November) this range exceeds 30° F. daily. Waves of intense cold occur, lasting for several days, and one may have to endure a cold of 12° below zero, rising to a maximum of 17° below freezing-point. On the other hand the summer temperature is exceedingly high, especially in the Oxus regions, where a shade maximum of 110° to 120° is not uncommon. At Kabul, and over all the northern part of the country to the descent at Gandamak, winter is rigorous, but especially so on the high Arachosian plateau. In Kabul the snow lies for two or three months; the people seldom leave their houses, and sleep close to stoves. At Ghazni the snow has been known to lie long beyond the vernal equinox; the thermometer sinks to 10° and 15° below zero (Fahr.); and tradition relates the entire destruction of the population of Ghazni by snowstorms more than once.
At Jalalabad the winter and the climate generally assume an Indian character. The summer heat is great everywhere in Afghanistan, but most of all in the districts bordering on the Indus, especially Sewi, on the lower Helmund and in Seistan. All over Kandahar province the summer heat is intense, and the simoon is not unknown. The hot season throughout this part of the country is rendered more trying by frequent dust storms and fiery winds; whilst the bare rocky ridges that traverse the country, absorbing heat by day and radiating it by night, render the summer nights most oppressive. At Kabul the summer sun has great power, though the heat is tempered occasionally by cool breezes from the Hindu Kush, and the nights are usually cool. At Kandahar snow seldom falls on the plains or lower hills; when it does, it melts at once.
At Herat, though 800 ft. lower than Kandahar, the summer climate is more temperate; and, in fact, the climate altogether is far from disagreeable. From May to September the wind blows from the N.W. with great violence, and this extends across the country to Kandahar. The winter is tolerably mild; snow melts as it falls, and even on the mountains does not lie long. Three years out of four at Herat it does not freeze hard enough for the people to store ice; yet it was not very far from Herat, and could not have been at a greatly higher level (at Rafir Kala, near Kassan) that, in 1750, Ahmad Shah’s army, retreating from Persia, is said to have lost 18,000 men from cold in a single night. In the northern Herat districts, too, records of the coldest month (February) show the mean minimum as 17° F., and the maximum 38° The eastern reaches of the Hari Rud river are frozen hard in the winter, rapids and all, and the people travel on it as on a road.
The summer rains that accompany the S.W. monsoon in India, beating along the southern slopes of the Himalaya, travel up the Kabul valley as far as Laghman, though they are more clearly felt in Bajour and Panjkora, under the high spurs of the Hindu Kush, and in the eastern branches of Safed Koh. Rain also falls at this season at the head of Kurram valley. South of this the Suliman mountains may be taken as the western limit of the monsoon’s action. It is quite unfelt in the rest of Afghanistan, in which, as in all the west of Asia, the winter rains are the most considerable. The spring rain, though less copious, is more important to agriculture than the winter rain, unless where the latter falls in the form of snow. In the absence of monsoon influences there are steadier weather indications than in India. The north-west blizzards which occur in winter and spring are the most noticeable feature, and their influence is clearly felt on the Indian frontier. The cold is then intense and the force of the wind cyclonic. Speaking generally, the Afghanistan climate is a dry one. The sun shines with splendour for three-fourths of the year, and the nights are even more clear than the days. Marked characteristics are the great differences of summer and winter temperature and of day and night temperature, as well as the extent to which change of climate can be attained by slight change of place. As the emperor Baber said of Kabul, at one day’s journey from it you may find a place where snow never falls, and at two hours’ journey a place where snow almost never melts!
The Afghans vaunt the salubrity and charm of some local climates, as of the Toba hills above the Kakar country, and of some of the high valleys of the Safed Koh.
The people have by no means that immunity from disease which the bright, dry character of the climate and the fine physical aspect of a large proportion of them might lead us to expect. Intermittent and remittent fevers are very prevalent; bowel complaints are common, and often fatal in the autumn. The universal custom of sleeping on the house-top in summer promotes rheumatic and neuralgic affections; and in the Koh Daman of Dabul, which the natives regard as having the finest of climates, the mortality from fever and bowel complaint, between July and October, is great, the immoderate use of fruit predisposing to such ailments.
The term Afghan really applies to one section only of the mixed conglomeration of nationalities which forms the people of Afghanistan, but this is the dominant section known as the Durani.Population. The Ghilzai (who is almost as powerful as the Durani) claims to be of Turkish origin; the Hazaras, the Chahar-Aimak, Tajiks, Uzbegs, Kafirs and others are more or less subject races. Popularly any inhabitant of Afghanistan is known as Afghan on the Indian frontier without distinction of origin or language; but the language division between the Parsiwan (or Persian-speaking Afghan) and the Pathan is a very distinct one. The predominance of the Afghan in Afghanistan dates from the middle of the 18th century, when Ahmad Shah carved out Afghanistan from the previous conquests of Nadir Shah and called it the Durani empire.
The Durani Afghans claim to be Ben-i-Israel, and insist on their descent from the tribes who were carried away captive from Palestine to Media by Nebuchadrezzar. Yet they also claim to be Pukhtun (or Pathan) in common with all other Pushtu-speaking tribes, whom they do not admit to be Afghan. The bond of affinity between the various peoples who compose the Pathan community is simply the bond of a common language. All of them recognize a common code or unwritten law called Pukhtunwali, which appears to be similar in general character to the old Hebraic law, though modified by Mahommedan ordinances, and strangely similar in certain particulars to Rajput custom. Besides their division into clans and tribes, the whole Afghan people may be divided into dwellers in tents and dwellers in houses; and this division is apparently not coincident with tribal divisions, for of several of the great clans at least a part is nomad and a part settled. Such, e.g., is the (use with the Durani and with the Ghilzai.
The settled Afghans form the village communities, and in part the population of the few towns. Their chief occupation is with the soil. They form the core of the nation and the main part of the army. Nearly all own the land on which they live, and which they cultivate with their own hands or by hired labour. Roundly speaking, agriculture and soldiering are their sole occupations. No Afghan will pursue a handicraft or keep a shop, though the Ghilzai Povindahs engage largely in travelling trade and transport of goods. As a race the Afghans are very handsome and athletic, often with fair complexion and flowing beard, generally black or brown, sometimes, though rarely, red; the features highly aquiline. The hair is shaved off from the forehead to the top of the head, the remainder at the sides being allowed to fall in large curls over the shoulders. Their step is full of resolution; their bearing proud and apt to be rough.
The women have handsome features of Jewish cast (the last trait often true also of the men); fair complexions, sometimes rosy, though usually a pale sallow; hair braided and plaited behind in two long tresses terminating in silken tassels. They are rigidly secluded, but intrigue is frequent.
The Afghans, inured to bloodshed from childhood, are familiar with death, and audacious in attack, but easily discouraged by failure; excessively turbulent and unsubmissive to law or discipline; apparently frank and affable in manner, especially when they hope to gain some object, but capable of the grossest brutality when that hope ceases. They are unscrupulous in perjury, treacherous, vain and insatiable, passionate in vindictiveness, which they will satisfy at the cost of their own lives and in the most cruel manner. Nowhere is crime committed on such trifling grounds, or with such general impunity, though when it is punished the punishment is atrocious. Among themselves the Afghans are quarrelsome, intriguing and distrustful; estrangements and affrays are of constant occurrence; the traveller conceals and misrepresents the time and direction of his journey. The Afghan is by breed and nature a bird of prey. If from habit and tradition he respects a stranger within his threshold, he yet considers it legitimate to warn a neighbour of the prey that is afoot, or even to overtake and plunder his guest after he has quitted his roof. The repression of crime and the demand of taxation he regards alike as tyranny. The Afghans are eternally boasting of their lineage, their independence and their prowess. They look on the Afghans as the first of nations, and each man looks on himself as the equal of any Afghan.
They are capable of enduring great privation, and make excellent soldiers under British discipline, though there are but few in the Indian army. Sobriety and hardiness characterize the bulk of the people, though the higher classes are too often stained with deep and degrading debauchery. The first impression made by the Afghan is favourable. The European, especially if he come from India, is charmed by their apparently frank, open-hearted, hospitable and manly manners; but the charm is not of long duration, and he finds that the Afghan is as cruel and crafty as he is independent. No trustworthy statistics exist showing either present numbers or fluctuations in the population of Afghanistan. Within the amir’s dominions there are probably from four to five millions of people, and of these the vast majority are agriculturists.
The cultivators, including landowners, tenants, hired labourers and slaves, represent the working population of the country, and as industrious and successful agriculturists they are unsurpassed in Asia. They have carried the art of irrigation to great perfection, and they utilize every acre of profitable soil. Certain Ghilzai clans are specially famous for their skill in the construction of the karez or underground water-channel.
The religion of the country throughout is Mahommedan. Next to Turkey, Afghanistan is the most powerful Mahommedan kingdom in existence. The vast majority of Afghans are of the Sunni sect;Religion. but there are, in their midst, such powerful communities of Shiahs as the Hazaras of the central districts, the Kizilbashes of Kabul and the Turis of the Kurram border, nor is there between them that bitterness of sectarian animosity which is so marked a feature in India. The Kafirs of the mountainous region of Kafiristan alone are non-Mahommedan. They are sunk in a paganism which seems to embrace some faint reflexion of Greek mythology, Zoroastrian principles and the tenets of Buddhism, originally gathered, no doubt, from the varied elements of their mixed extraction. Those contiguous Afghan tribes, who have not so long ago been converted to the faith of Islam, are naturally the most fanatical and the most virulent upholders of the faith around them. In and about the centre of civilization at Kabul, instances of Ghazism are comparatively rare. In the western provinces about Kandahar (amongst the Durani Afghans —the people who claim to be Beni-Israel), and especially in Zamindawar, the spirit of fanaticism runs high, and every other Afghan is a possible Ghazi —a man who has devoted his life to the extinction of other creeds.
Persian is the vernacular of a large part of the non-Afghan population, and is familiar to all educated Afghans; it is the language of the court and of literature.Language and literature. Pushtu, however, is the prevailing language, though it does not seem to be spoken in Herat, or, roughly speaking, west of the Helmund. Turki is spoken in Afghan Turkestan. There is a respectable amount of Afghan literature. The oldest work in Pushtu is a history of the conquest of Swat by Shaikh Mali, a chief of the Yusafzais, and leader in the conquest (A.D. 1413–24). In 1494 Kaju Khan became chief of the same clan; during his rule Buner and Panjkora were completely conquered, and he wrote a history of the events. In the reign of Akbar, Bayazid Ansari, called Pir-i-Roshan, “the Saint of Light,” the founder of an heretical sect, wrote in Pushtu; as did his chief antagonist, a famous Afghan saint called Akhund Darweza. The literature is richest in poetry. Abdur Rahman (17th century) is the best known poet. Another very popular poet is Khushal Khan, the warlike chief of the Khattaks in the time of Aurangzeb. Many other members of his family were poets also. Ahmad Shah, the founder of the monarchy, likewise wrote poetry. Ballads are numerous.
Education is confined to most elementary principles in Afghanistan. Of schools or colleges for the purposes of a higher education befitted to the sons of noblemen and the moreEducation. wealthy merchants there are absolutely none; but the village school is an ever-present and very open spectacle to the passer-by. Here the younger boys are collected and instructed in the rudiments of reading, writing and religious creed by the village mullah, or priest, who thereby acquires an early influence over the Afghan mind. The method of teaching is confined to that wearisome system of loud-voiced repetition which is so annoying a feature in Indian schools; and the Koran is, of course, the text-book in all forms of education. Every Afghan gentleman can read and speak Persian, but beyond this acquirement education seems to be limited to the physical development of the youth by instruction in horsemanship and feats of skill. Such advanced education as exists in Afghanistan is centred in the priests and physicians; but the ignorance of both is extreme.
The government of Afghanistan is an absolute monarchy under the amir, and succession to the throne is hereditary. There are five chief political divisions in the country—namely, Kabul,Constitution and laws Turkestan, Herat, Kandahar and Badakshan, each of which is ruled by a “naib” or governor, whom is directly responsible to the amir. Under the governors of provinces the nobles and kazis (or district judges) dispense justice much in the feudal fashion. There are three classes of chiefs who form the council or durbar of the king. These are the sirdars, the khans and the mullahs. The sirdars are hereditary nobles, the khans are representatives of the people, and the mullahs of Mahommedan religion. The khan is elected by the clan or tribe. The clannish attachment of the Afghans is rather to the community than to the chief. These three classes of representatives are divided into two assemblies, the Durbar Shahi or royal assembly, and the Kharwanin Mulkhi or commons. The mullahs take their place in one or the other according to their individual rank. The executive officials of the amir have a selected body, called the Khilwat, which acts as a cabinet council, but no member can give advice to the crown without being asked to do so, or beyond the jurisdiction of his own department. The amir, in addition to being chief executive officer, is chief judge and supreme court of appeal. Any one has the right to appeal to the amir for trial, and the great amirs, Dost Mahommed and Abdur Rahman, were accessible at all times to the petitions of their subjects. Next to the amir comes the court of the kazi, the chief centre of justice, and beneath the kazi comes the kotwal, who performs, as in India, the ordinary functions of a magistrate. In large provincial towns there is a punchait, or council, for the trial of commercial cases. There are government departments for the administration of revenue, customs, post-office, military affairs, &c. The general law administered in all the courts of Afghanistan is, that of Islam and of the customs of the country, with developments introduced by the Amir Abdur Rahman.
Defence. The Afghan army probably numbers 50,000 regulars distributed between the military centres of Herat, Kandahar, Kabul, Mazar-i-Sharif, Jalalabad and Asmar, with detachments at frontier outposts on the side of India. Abdur Rahman claimed that he could put 100,000 men into the field within a week for the defence of Herat. In 1896 he introduced a system of semi-enforced service whereby one man in every eight between the ages of sixteen and seventy takes his turn at military training. In this way he calculated that he could have raised 1,000,000 men armed with modern weapons, but his chief difficulty would be money and transport. The pay of the army is apt to be irregular. The amir's factories at Kabul for arms and ammunition are said to turn out about, 20,000 cartridges and 15 rifles daily, with 2 guns per week; but the arms thus produced are very heterogeneous, and the different varieties of cartridge used would cause endless complications. The two chief fastnesses of Northern Afghanistan are Herat and Dehdadi near Balkh. The latter fort took twelve years to build, and commands all the roads leading from the Oxus into Afghan Turkestan. It is armed with naval quick-firing guns, Krupp, Hotchkiss, Nordenfeld and Maxim. The chief cantonment for the same district is at Mazar-i-Sharif, 12 m. from Balkh.
Finance. Financially, Afghanistan has never, since it first became a kingdom, been able to pay for its own government, public works and army. There appears to be no inherent reason why this should be so. Whilst it can never (in the absence of any great mineral wealth) develop into a wealthy country, it can at least support its own population; and it would, but for the short-sighted trade policy of Abdur Rahman, certainly have risen to a position of respectable solvency. Its revenues (about which no trustworthy information is available) are subject to great fluctuations, and probably never exceed the value of one million sterling per annum. They fell in Shere Ali's time to £700,000. The original subsidy to the amir from the Indian government was fixed at 12 lakhs of rupees (£80,000) per annum, but in 1893, in connexion with the boundary settlement, it was increased to £120,000.
Minerals. Few minerals are wrought in Afghanistan, though Abdur Rahman claims in his autobiography that the country is rich in mines. Some small quantity of gold is taken from the streams in Laghman and the adjoining districts. Famous silver mines were formerly worked near the head of the Panjshir valley in Hindu Kush. Kabul is chiefly supplied with iron from the Permuli (or Farmuli) district, between the Upper Kurram and Gomal, where it is said to be abundant. Iron ore is most abundant near the passes leading to Bamian, and in other parts of Hindu Kush. Copper ore from various parts of Afghanistan has been seen, but it is nowhere worked. Lead is found in Upper Bangash (Kurram district), and in the Shinwari country (also among the branches of Safed Koh), and in the Kakar country. There are reported to be rich lead mines near Herat scarcely worked. Lead, with antimony, is found near the Arghand-ab, 32 m. north-west of Ghazni, and in the Ghorband valley, north of Kabul. Most of the lead used, however, comes from the Hazara country, where the ore is described as being gathered on the surface. An ancient mine of great extent and elaborate character exists at Feringal, in the Ghorband valley. Antimony is obtained in considerable quantities at Shah-Maksud, about 30 m. north of Kandahar. Sulphur is said to be found at Herat, dug from the soil in small fragments, but the chief supply comes from the Hazara country and from Pirkisri, on the confines of Seistan, where there would seem to be a crater, or fumarole. Sal-ammoniac is brought from the same place. Gypsum is found in large quantities in the plain of Kandahar, being dug out in fragile coralline masses from near the surface. Coal (perhaps lignite) is said to be found in Zurmat (between the Upper Kurram and the Gomal) and near Ghazni. Nitre abounds in the soil over all the south-west of Afghanistan, and often affects the water of the karez or subterranean canals.
Vegetation.The characteristic distribution of vegetation on the mountains of Afghanistan is worthy of attention. The great mass of it is confined to the main ranges and their immediate off-shoots, whilst on the more distant and terminal prolongations it is almost entirely absent; in fact, these are naked rock and stone.
Lower again, and down to 3000 ft. we have wild olive, species of rock-rose, wild privet, acacias and mimosas, barberry and Zizyphus; and in the eastern ramifications of the chain, Chamaerops humilis (which is applied to a variety of useful purposes), Bignonia or trumpet flower, sissu, Salvadora persica, verbena, acanthus, varieties of Gesnerae.
The lowest terminal ridges, especially towards the west, are, as has been said, naked in aspect. Their scanty vegetation is almost wholly herbal; shrubs are only occasional; trees almost non-existent. Labiate, composite and umbelliferous plants are most common. Ferns and mosses are almost confined to the higher ranges.
In the low brushwood scattered over portions of the dreary plains of the Kandahar table-lands, we End leguminous thorny plants of the papilionaceous sub-order, such as camel-thorn (Hedysarum Alhagi), Astragalus in several varieties, spiny rest-harrow (Ononis spinosa), the fibrous roots of which often serve as a tooth-brush; plants of the sub-order Mimosae, as the sensitive mimosa; a plant of the rue family, called by the natives lipâd; the common wormwood; also certain orchids, and several species of Salsola. The rue and wormwood are in general use as domestic medicines—the former for rheumatism and neuralgia; the latter in fever, debility and dyspepsia, as well as for a vermifuge. The lipâd, owing to its heavy nauseous odour, is believed to keep off evil spirits. In some places, occupying the sides and hollows of ravines, are found the rose bay (Nerium Oleander), called in Persian khar-zarah, or ass-bane, the wild laburnum and various Indigoferae.In cultivated districts the chief trees seen are mulberry, willow, poplar, ash, and occasionally the plane; but these are due to man's planting.
In the highlands of Kabul edible rhubarb is an im ortant local luxury. The plants grow wild in the mountains. The bleached rhubarb, which has a very delicate flavour, is altered by covering the young leaves, as they sprout from the soil, with loose stones or an empty jar. The leaf-stalks are gathered by the neighbouring hill people, and carried down for sale. Bleached and unbleached rhubarb are both largely consumed, both raw and cooked.
The walnut and edible pine-nut are both wild growths, which are exported.
The sanjît (Elaeaguns orientalis), common on the banks of watercourses, furnishes an edible fruit. An orchis found in the mountain yields the dried tuber which affords the nutritious mucilage called salep; a good deal of this goes to India.
Pistacia khinjak affords a mastic. The fruit, mixed with its resin, is used for food by the Achakzais in Southern Afghanistan. The true pistachio is found only on the northern frontier; the nuts are imported from Badakshan and Kunduz.
Mushrooms and other fungi are largely used as food, especially by the Hindus of the towns, to whom they supply a substitute for meat.
Manna, of at least two kinds, is sold in the bazaars. One, called turanjbîn, appears to exude, in small round tears, from the camel thorn, and also from the dwarf tamarisk; the other, sir-kasht, in large grains and irregular masses or cakes with bits of twig imbedded, is obtained from a tree which the natives call siah chob (black wood), thought by Bellew to be a Fraxinus or Ornus.
Agriculture. In most parts of the country there are two harvests, as generally in India. One of these, called by the Afghans bahârak, or the spring crop, is sown in the end of autumn and reaped in summer. It consists of wheat, barley and a variety of lentils. The other, called pâizah or tîrmâi, the autumnal, is sown in the end of spring, and reaped in autumn. It consists of rice, varieties of millet and sorghum, of maize, Phaseolus Mungo, tobacco, beet, turnips, &c. The loftier regions have but one harvest.
Wheat is the staple food over the greater part of the country. Rice is not largely distributed. In much of the eastern mountainous country bâjra (Holcus spicatus) is the chief grain. Most English and Indian garden-stuffs are cultivated; turnips in some places very largely, as cattle food.
The growth of melons, water-melons and other cucurbitaceous plants is reckoned very important, especially near towns; and this crop counts for a distinct harvest.
Sugar-cane is grown only in the rich plains; and though cotton is grown in the warmer tracts, most of the cotton cloth is imported.
Madder is an important item of the spring crop in Ghazni and Kandahar districts, and generally over the west, and supplies the Indian demand. It is said to be very profitable, though it takes three years to mature. Saffron is grown and exported. The castor-oil plant is everywhere common, and furnishes most of the oil of the country. Tobacco is grown very generally; that of Kandahar has much repute, and is exported to India and Bokhara. Two crops of leaves are taken.
Lucerne and a trefoil called shaftal form important fodder crops in the western parts of the country, and, when irrigated, are said to afford ten or twelve cuttings in the season. The komal (Prangos pabularia) is abundant in the hill country of Ghazni, and is said to extend through the Hazara country to Herat. It is stored for winter use, and forms an excellent fodder. Others are derived from the Holcus sorghum, and from two kinds of panick. It is common to cut down the green wheat and barley before the ear forms, for fodder, and the repetition of this, with barley at least, is said not to injure the grain crop. Bellew gives the following statement of the manner in which the soil is sometimes worked in the Kandahar district:—Barley is sown in November; in March and April it is twice cut for fodder; in June the grain is reaped, the ground is ploughed and manured and sown with tobacco, which yields two cuttings. The ground is then prepared for carrots and turnips, which are gathered in November or December.
Of great moment are the fruit crops. All European fruits are produced profusely, in many varieties and of excellent quality. Fresh or preserved, they form a principal food of a large class of the people, and the dry fruit is largely exported. In the valleys of Kabul mulberries are dried, and packed in skins for winter use, This rnulberry cake is often reduced to flour, and used as such, forming in some valleys the main food of the people.
Grapes are grown very extensively, and the varieties are very numerous. The vines are sometimes trained on trellises, but most frequently over ridges of earth 8 or 10 ft. high. The principal part of the garden lands in villages round Kandahar is vineyard, and the produce must be enormous.
Open canals are usual in the Kabul valley, and in eastern Afghanistan generally; but over all the western parts of the country much use is made of the karez, which is a subterranean aqueduct uniting the waters of several springs, and conducting their combined volume to the surface at a lower level.
Fauna. As regards vertebrate zoology, Afghanistan lies on the frontier of three regions, viz. the Eurasian, the Ethiopian (to which region Baluchistan seems to belong) and the Indo-Malayan. Hence it naturally partakes somewhat of the forms of each, but is in the main Eurasian.
Canidae.—The jackal (C. aureus, Eur., Ind., Eth.) abounds on the Helmund and Argand-ab, and probably elsewhere. Wolves (C. Bengalensis) are formidable in the wilder tracts, and assemble in troops on the snow, destroying cattle and sometimes attacking single horsemen. The hyena (H. striata, Africa to India) is common. These do not hunt in packs, but will sometimes singly attack a bullock; they and the wolves make havoc among sheep. A favourite feat of the boldest of the young men of southern Afghanistan is to enter the hyena's den, single-handed, muffle and tie him. There are wild dogs, according to Elphinstone and Conolly. The small Indian fox (Vulpes Bengalensis) is found; also V. flavescens, common to India an Persia, the skin of which is much used as a fur.
Mustelidae.—Species of mungoose (Herpestes), species of Otter, Mustela erminea, and two ferrets, one of them with tortoise-shell marks, tamed by the Afghans to keep down vermin; a marten (M. flavigula, Indian).
Bears are two: a black one, probably Ursus torquatus; and one of a dirty yellow, U. Isabellinus, both Himalayan species.
Ruminants.—Capra aegagrus and C. megaceros; a wild sheep (Ovis cycloceros or Vignei); Gazella subgutturosa—these are often netted in batches when they descend to drink at a stream; G. dorcas perhaps; Cervus Wallichii, the Indian barasingha, and probably some other Indian deer, in the north-eastern mountains.The wild hog (Sus scrofa) is found on the lower Helmund. The wild ass, Gorkhar of Persia (Equus onager), is frequent on the sandy tracts in the south-west.
The Himalayan varieties of the markhor and ibex are abundant in Kafiristan.
Bats believed to be Phyllorhinus cineraceus (Punjab species), Scotophilus Bellii (W. India), Vesp. auritus and V. barbastellus, both found from England to India.
Rodentia.—A squirrel (Sciurus Syriacus?); Mus Indicus and M. Gerbellinus; a jerboa (Dipus telum?); Alactaga Bactriana; Gerbillus Indicus, and G. erythrinus (Persian and Indian); Lagomys Nepalensis, a Central Asian species. A hare, probably L. ruficaudatus.Birds.—The largest list of Afghan birds that we know of is given by Captain Hutton in the J. As. Soc. Bengal, vol. xvi. pp. 775 seq.; but it is confessedly far from complete. Of 124 species in that list, 5 are pronounced to be Eurasian, 17 Indian, 10 both Eurasian and Indian, 1 (Turtur risorius) Eur., Ind. and Eth.; and 1 only, Carpodacus (Bucanetes) crassirostris, peculiar to the country. Afghanistan appears to be, during the breeding season, the retreat of a variety of Indian and some African (desert) forms, whilst in winter the avifauna becomes overwhelmingly Eurasian.
The camel is of a more robust and compact breed than the tall beast used in India, and is more carefully tended. The two humped Bactrian camel is commonly used in the Oxus regions, but is seldom seen, near the Indian frontier. Horses form a staple export to India.. The best of these, however, are reserved for the Afghan cavalry. Those exported to India. are usually bred in Mairnana and other places in Afghan Turkestan. The indigenous horse is the yabu, a stout, heavy shouldered animal, of about 14 hands high, used chiefly for burden, but also for riding. It gets over incredible distances at an ambling shuffle, but is unfit for fast work and cannot stand excessive heat. The breed of horses was much improved under the amir Abdur Rahman, who took much interest in it. Generally, colts are sold and worked too young.
The cows of Kandahar and Seistan give very large quantities of milk. They seem to be of the humped variety, but with the hump evanescent. Dairy produce is important in Afghan diet, especially the pressed and dried curd called krüt (an article and name perhaps introduced by the Mongols).
There are two varieties of sheep, both having the fat tail. One bears a white fleece, the other a russet or black one. Much of the white wool is exported to Persia, and now largely to Europe by Bombay. Flocks of sheep are the main wealth of the nomad population, and mutton is the chief animal food of the nation. In autumn large numbers are slaughtered, their carcases cut up, rubbed with salt and dried in the sun. The same is done with beef and camel's flesh.
The goats, generally black or parti-coloured, seem to be a degenerate variety of the shawl-goat.
The climate is found. to be favourable to dog-breeding. Pointers are bred in the Kohistan of Kabul and above Jalalabad—large, heavy, slow-hunting, but fine-nosed and staunch; very like the old'double-nosed Spanish pointer. There are greyhounds also, but inferior in speed to second-rate English dogs.
Trade and commerce. The manufactures of the country have not developed much during recent years. Poshtins (sheepskin clothing) and the many varieties of camel and goat's hair-cloth which, under the name of "barak," "karak," &c. are manufactured in the northern districts, are still the chief local products of that part of Afghanistan. Herat and Kandahar are famous for their silks, although a large proportion of the manufactured silk found on the Herat market, as well as many of the felts, carpets and embroideries, are brought from the Central Asian khanates. The district of Herat produces many of the smaller sorts of carpets ("galichas" or prayer-carpets), of excellent design and colour, the little town of Adraskand being especially famous for this industry; but they are not to be compared with the best products of eastern Persia or of the Turkman districts about Panjdeh.
The nomadic Afghan tribes of the west are chiefly pastoral, and the wool of the southern Herat and Kandahar provinces is famous for its quality. In this direction, the late boundary settlements have undoubtedly led to a considerable development of local resources. A large quantity of wool, together with silk, dried fruit, madder and asafetida, finds its way to India by the Kandahar route.
It is impossible to give accurate trade statistics, there being no trustworthy system of registration. The value of the imports from Kabul to India in 1892–1893 was estimated at 221,000 Rx (or tens of rupees). In 1899 it was little over 217,000 Rx, the period of lowest intermediate depression being in 1897. These imports include horses, cattle, fruits, grain, wool, silk, hides, tobacco, drugs and provisions (ghi, &c.). All this trade emanates from Kabul, there being no transit trade with Bokhara owing to the heavy dues levied by the amir. The value of the exports from India to Kabul also shows great fluctuation. In the year 1892–1893 it was registered at nearly 611,000 Rx. In 1894–1895 it had sunk to 274,000 Rx, and in 1899 it figured at 294,600 Rx. The chief items are cotton goods, sugar and tea. In 1898–1899 the imports from Kandahar to India were Valued at 330,000 Rx, and the exports from India to Kandahar at about 264,000 Rx. Three fourths of the exports consist of cotton goods, and three-eighths of the imports were raw wool. The balance of the imports was chiefly made up of dried fruits. Comparison with trade statistics of previous years on this side Afghanistan is difficult, owing to the inclusion of a large section of Baluchistan and Persia within the official "Kandahar" returns; but it does not appear that the value of the western Afghanistan trade is much on the increase. The opening up of the route between Quetta and Seistan has doubtless affected a trade which was already seriously hampered by restrictions. In the year after the mission of Sir Louis Dane to Kabul in 1905 it was authoritatively stated that the trade between Afghanistan and India had nearly doubled in value.
Antiquities. The basin of the Kabul river especially abounds in remains of the period when Buddhism flourished. Bamian is famous for its wall-cut figures, and at Haibak (on the route between Tashkurghan and Kabul) there are some most interesting Buddhist remains. In the Koh-Daman, north of Kabul, are the sites of several ancient cities, the greatest of which, called Beghram, has furnished coins in scores of thousands, and has been supposed to represent Alexander's Nicaea. Nearer Kabul, and especially on the hills some miles south of the city, are numerous topes. In the valley of Jalalabad are many remains of the same character.
In the valley of the Tarnak are the ruins of a great city (Ulan Robat) supposed to be the ancient Arachosia. About Girishk, on the Helmund, are extensive mounds and other traces of buildings; and the remains of several great cities exist in the plain of Seistan, as at Pulki, Peshawar and Lakh, relics of ancient Drangiana. An ancient stone vessel preserved in a mosque at Kandahar is almost certainly the same that was treasured at Peshawar in the 5th century as the begging pot of Sakya-Muni. In architectural relics of a later date than the Graeco-Buddhist period Afghanistan is remarkably deficient. Of the city of Ghazni, the vast capital of Mahmud and his race, no substantial relics survive, except the tomb of Mahmud and two remarkable brick minarets. A vast and fruitful harvest of coins has been gathered in Afghanistan and the adjoining regions.
The Afghan chroniclers call their people Beni-Israil (Arab. for Children of Israel), and claim descent from King Saul (whom they call by the Mahommedan corruption Tālūt) through a son whom they ascribe to him, called Jeremiah, who again had a son called Afghana. The numerous stock of Afghana were removed by Nebuchadnezzar, and found their way to the mountains of Ghor and Feroza (east and north of Herat). Only nine years after Mahommed's announcement of his mission they heard of the new prophet, and sent to Medina a deputation headed by a wise and holy man called Kais, to make inquiry. The deputation became zealous converts, and on their return converted their countrymen. From Kais and his three sons the whole of the genuine Afghans claim descent.
This story is repeated in great and varying detail in sundry books by Afghans, the oldest of which appears to be of the 16th century; nor do We know that any trace of the legend is found of older date. In the version given by Major Raverty (Introd. to Afghan Grammar), Afghanah is settled by King Solomon himself in the Sulimani mountains; there is nothing about Nebuchadnezzar or Ghor. The historian Ferishta says he had read that the Afghans were descended from Copts of the race of Pharaoh. And one of the Afghan histories, quoted by Mr Bellew, relates a current tradition "that, previous to the time of Kais, Bilo the father of the Biluchis, Uzbak (evidently the father of the Usbegs) and Afghana were considered as brethren. As Mahommed Usbeg Khan, the eponymus of the medley of Tatar tribes called Usbegs, reigned in the 14th century A.D., this gives some possible light on the value of these so-called traditions.
We have analogous stories in the literature of almost all nations that derive their religion or their civilization from a foreign source. To say nothing of the Book of Mormon, a considerable number of persons have been found to propagate the doctrine that the English people are descended from the tribes of Israel. But the Hebrew ancestry of the Afghans is more worthy at least of consideration, for a respectable number of intelligent officers, well acquainted with the Afghans, have been strong in their belief of it; and though the customs alleged in proof will not bear the stress laid on them, undoubtedly a prevailing type of the Afghan physiognomy has a character strongly Jewish. This characteristic is certainly a remarkable one; but it is shared, to a considerable extent, by the Kashmir is (a circumstance which led Bernier to speculate on the Kashmir is representing the lost tribes of Israel), and, we believe, by the Tajik people of Badakshan.
Relations with the Greeks.—In the time of Darius Hystaspes (500 B.C.) we find the region now called Afghanistan embraced in the Achaemenian satrapies, and various parts of it occupied by Sarangians (in Seistan), Arians (in Herat), Sattagydians (supposed in highlands of upper Helmund and the plateau of Ghazni), Dadicae (suggested to be Tajiks), Aparytae (mountaineers, perhaps of Safed Koh, where lay the Paryetae of Ptolemy), Gandarii (in Lower Kabul basin) and Paktyes, on or near the Indus. In the last name it has been plausibly suggested that we have the Pukhtun, as the eastern Afghans pronounce their name. Indeed, Pusht, Pasht or Pakht would seem to be the oldest name of the country of the Afghans in their traditions.
The Ariana of Strabo corresponds generally with the existing dominions of Kabul, but overpasses their limits on the west and south.
About 310 B.C. Seleucus is said by Strabo to have given to the Indian Sandrocottus (Chandragupta), in consequence of a marriage-contract, some part of the country west of the Indus occupied by an Indian population, and no doubt embracing a part of the Kabul basin. Some sixty years later occurred the establishment of an independent Greek dynasty in Bactria. (See Bactria, Media, Eucratides, Menander of India, Euthydemus, and Persia, Ancient History.) Of the details of their history and extent of their dominion in different reigns we know almost nothing, and conjecture is often dependent on such vague data as are afforded by the collation of the localities in which the coins of independent princes have been found. But their power extended certainly over the Kabul basin, and probably, at times, over the whole of Afghanistan. The ancient architecture of Kashmir, the tope of Manikyala in the Punjab, and many sculptures found in the Peshawar valley, show unmistakable Greek influence. Demetrius (c. 190 B.C.) is supposed to have reigned in Arachosia after being expelled from Bactria, much as, at a later date, Baber reigned in Kabul after his expulsion from Samarkand. Eucratides (181 B.C.) is alleged by Tustin to have warred in India. With his coins, found abundantly in the Kabul basin, commences the use of an Arianian inscription, in addition to the Greek, supposed to imply the transfer of rule to the south of the mountains, over a people whom the Greek dynasty sought to conciliate. Under Heliocles (147 B.C.?), the Parthia's, who had already encroached on Ariana, pressed their conquests into India. Menander (126 B.C.) invaded India at least to the Jumna, and perhaps also to the Indus delta. The coinage of a succeeding king, Hermaeus, indicates a barbaric irruption. There is a general correspondence between classical and Chinese accounts of the time when Bactria was overrun by Scythian invaders. The chief nation among these, called by the Chinese Yue-Chi, about 126 B.C. established themselves in Sogdiana and on the Oxus in five hordes. Near the Christian era the chief of one of these, which was called Kushan, subdued the rest, and extended his conquests over the countries south of the Hindu Kush, including Sind as well as Afghanistan, thus establishing a great dominion, of which we hear from Greek writers as Indo-Scythia. (See Yue-Chi.)
Buddhism had already acquired influence over the people of the Kabul basin, and some of the barbaric invaders adopted that system. Its traces are extensive, especially in the plains of Jalalabad and Peshawar, but also in the vicinity of Kabul.
Various barbaric dynasties succeeded each other. A notable monarch was Kanishka (see India, History) or Kanerkes, whose date is variously fixed at from 58 B.C. to A.D. 125, and whose power extended over the upper Oxus basin, Kabul, Peshawar, Kashmir and probably far into India. His name and legends still nlled the land, or at least the Buddhist portion of it, 600 years later, when the Chinese pilgrim, Hsüan Tsang, travelled in India; they had even reached the great Mahommedan philosopher, traveller and geographer, Abu-r-Raihan Muhammad al-Biruni (see Bīrūnī), in the 11th century; and they are still celebrated in the Mongol versions of Buddhist ecclesiastical story.
Turkoman Dynasties.—In the time of Hsüan Tsang (A.D. 650–645) there were both Indian and Turk princes in the Kabul valley, and in the succeeding centuries both these races seem to have predominated in succession. The first Mahommedan attempts at the conquest of Kabul were unsuccessful, though Seistan and Arachosia were permanently held from an early date. It was not till the end of the 10th century that a Hindu prince ceased to reign in Kabul, and it fell into the hands of the Turk Sabuktagin, who had established his capital at Ghazni. There, too, reigned his famous son Mahmud, and a series of descendants, till the middle of the 12th century, rendering the city one of the most splendid in Asia. We then havefa powerful dynasty, commonly believed to have been of Afghan race; and if so, the first. But the historians give them a legendary descent from Zohak, which is no Afghan genealogy. The founder of the dynasty was Alauddin, chief of Ghor, whose vengeance for the cruel death of his brother at the hands of Bahram the Ghaznevide was wreaked in devastating the great city. His nephew, Shahabuddin Mahommed, repeatedly invaded India, conquering as far as Benares. His empire in India indeed ruled—by his freedmen who after his death became independent—may be regarded as the origin of that great Mahommedan monarchy which endured nominally till 1857. For a brief period the Afghan countries were subject to the king of Khwarizm, and it was here chiefly that occurred the gallant attempts of Jalaluddin of Khwarizm to withstand the progress of Jenghiz Khan.
A passage in Ferishta seems to imply that the Afghans in the Sulimani mountains were already known by that name in the first century of the Hegira, but it is uncertain how far this may be built on. The name Afghans is very distinctly mentioned in 'Utbi's History of Sultan Mahmud, written about A.D. 1030, coupled with that of the Khiljis. It also appears frequently in connexion with the history of India in the 13th and 14th centuries. The successive dynasties of Delhi are generally called Pathan, but were really so only in part. Of the Khiljis (1288–1321) we have already spoken. The Tughlaks (1321–1421) were originally Tatars of the Karauna tribe. The Lodis (1450–1526) were pure Pathans. For a century and more after the Mongol invasion the whole of the Afghan countries were under Mongol rule; but in the middle of the 14th century a native dynasty sprang up in western Afghanistan, that of the Kurts, which extended its rule over Ghor, Herat and Kandahar. The history of the Afghan countries under the Mongols is obscure; but that régime must have left its mark upon the country, if we judge from the occurrence of frequent Mongol names of places, and even of Mongol expressions adopted into familiar language.
The Mogul Dynasty.—All these countries were included in Timur's conquests, and Kabul at least had remained in the possession of one of his descendants till 1501, only three years before it fell into the hands of another and more illustrious one, Sultan Baber. It was not till 1522 that Baber succeeded in permanently wresting Kandahar from the Arghuns, a family of Mongol descent, who had long held it. From the time of his conquest of Hindustan (victory at Panipat, April 21, 1526), Kabul and Kandahar may be regarded as part of the empire of Delhi under the (so-called) Mogul dynasty which Baber founded. Kabul so continued till the invasion of Nadir Shah (1738). Kandahar often changed hands between the Moguls and the rising Safavis (or Sufis) of Persia. Under the latter it had remained from 1642 till 1708, when in the reign of Husain, the last of them, the Ghilzais, provoked by the oppressive Persian governor Shahnawaz Khan (a Georgian prince of the Bagratid house), revolted under Mir Wais, and expelled the Persians. Mir Wais was acknowledged sovereign of Kandahar, and eventually defeated the Persian armies sent against him, but did not long survive (d. 1715).
Mahmud, the son of Mir Wais, a man of great courage and energy, carried out a project of his father's, the conquest of Persia itself. After a long siege, Shah Husain came forth from Ispahan with all his court, and surrendered the sword and diadem of the Sufis into the hands of the Ghilzai (October 1722). Two years later Mahmud died mad, and a few years saw the end of Ghilzai rule in Persia.
The Durani Dynasty.—In 1737–38 Nadir Shah both recovered Kandahar and took Kabul. But he gained the goodwill of the Afghans, and enrolled many in his army. Among these was a noble young soldier, Ahmad Khan, of the Saddozai family of the Abdali clan, who after the assassination of Nadir (1747) was chosen by the Afghan chiefs at Kandahar to be their leader, and assumed kingly authority over the eastern part of Nadir's empire, with the style of Dur-i-Durân, "Pearl of the Age," bestowing that of Durani upon his clan, the Abdalis. With Ahmad Shah, Afghanistan, as such, first took a place among the kingdoms of the earth, and the Durani dynasty, which he founded, still occupies its throne. During the twenty-six years of his reign he carried his warlike expeditions far and wide. Westward they extended nearly to the shores of the Caspian; eastward he repeatedly entered India as a conqueror. At his great battle of Panipat (January 6, 1761), with vastly inferior numbers, he inflicted on the Mahrattas, then at the zenith of their power, a tremendous defeat, almost annihilating their vast army; but the success had for him no important result. Having long suffered from a terrible disease, he died in 1773, bequeathing to his son Timur a dominion which embraced not only Afghanistan to its utmost limits, but the Punjab, Kashmir and Turkestan to the Oxus, with Sind, Baluchistan and Khorasan as tributary governments.
Timur transferred his residence from Kandahar to Kabul, and continued during a reign of twenty years to stave off the anarchy which followed close on his death. He left twenty three sons, of whom the fifth, Zaman Mirza, by help of Payindah Khan, head of the Barakzai family of the Abdalis, succeeded in grasping the royal power. For many years barbarous wars raged between the brothers, during which Zaman Shah, Shuja-ul-Mulk and Mahmud successively held the throne. The last owed success to Payindah's son, Fatteh Khan (known as the "Afghan Warwick"), a man of masterly ability in war and politics, the eldest of twenty-one brothers, a family of notable intelligence and force of character, and many of these he placed over the provinces. Fatteh Khan, however, excited the king's jealously by his powerful position, and provoked the malignity of the king's son, Kamran, by a gross outrage on the Saddozai family. He was accordingly seized, blinded and afterwards murdered with prolonged torture, the brutal Kamran striking the first blow.
The Barakzai brothers united to avenge Fatteh Khan. The Saddozais were driven from Kabul, Ghazni and Kandahar, and with difficulty reached Herat (1818). Herat remained thus till Kamran's death (1842), and after that was held by his able and wicked minister Yar Mahommed. The rest of the country was divided among the Barakzais—Dost Mahommed, the ablest, getting Kabul. Peshawar and the right bank of the Indus fell to the Sikhs after their victory at Nowshera in 1823. The last Afghan hold of the Punjab had been lost long before—Kashmir in 1819; Sind had cast off all allegiance since 1808; the Turkestan provinces had been practically independent since the death of Timur Shah.
The First Afghan War, 1838–42.—In 1809, in consequence of the intrigues of Napoleon in Persia, the Hon. Mountstuart Elphinstone had been sent as envoy to Shah Shuja, then in power, and had been well received by him at Peshawar. This was the first time the Afghans made any acquaintance with Englishmen. Lieut. Alex. Burnes (afterwards Sir Alex. Burnes) visited Kabul on his way to Bokhara in 1832. In 1837 the Persian siege of Herat and the proceedings of Russia created uneasiness, and Burnes was sent by the governor-general as resident to the amir's court at Kabul. But the terms which the Dost sought were not conceded by the government, and the rash resolution was taken of re-establishing Shah Shuja, long a refugee in British territory. Ranjit Singh, king of the Punjab, bound himself to co-operate, but eventually declined to let the expedition cross his territories.
The war began in March 1838, when the "Army of the Indus," amounting to 21,000 men, assembled in Upper Sind and advanced through the Bolan Pass under the command of Sir John Keane. There was hardship, but scarcely any opposition. Kohandil Khan of Kandahar fled to Persia. That city was occupied in April 1839, and Shah Shuja was crowned in his grandfather's mosque. Ghazni was reached 21st July; a gate of the city was blown open by the engineers (the match was fired by Lieut., afterwards Sir Henry, Durand), and the place was taken by storm. Dost Mahommed, finding his troops deserting, passed the Hindu Kush, and Shah Shuja entered the capital (August 7). The war was thought at an end, and Sir John Keane (made a peer) returned to India with a considerable part of the force, leaving behind 8000 men, besides the Shah's force, with Sir W. Macnaghten as envoy, and Sir A. Burnes as his colleague.
During the two following years Shah Shuja and his allies remained in possession of Kabul and Kandahar. The British outposts extended to Saighan, in the Oxus basin, and to Mullah Khan, in the plain of Seistan. Dost Mahommed surrendered (November 3, 1840) and was sent to India, where he was honourably treated. From the beginning, insurrection against the new government had been rife. The political authorities were overconndent, and neglected warnings. On the 2nd of November 1841 the revolt broke out violently at Kabul, with the massacre of Burnes and other officers. The position of the British camp, its communications with the citadel and the location of the stores were the worst possible; and the general (Elphinstone) was shattered in constitution. Disaster after disaster occurred, not without misconduct. At a conference (December 23) with the Dost's son, Akbar Khan, who had taken the lead of the Afghans, Sir W. Macnaghten was murdered by that chief's own hand. On the 6th of January 1842, after a convention to evacuate the country had been signed, the British garrison, still numbering 4500 soldiers (of whom 690 were Europeans), with some 12,000 followers, marched out of the camp. The winter was severe, the troops demoralised, the march a mass of confusion and massacre, and the force was finally overwhelmed in the Jagdalak pass between Kabul and Jalalabad.
On the 13th the last survivors mustered at Gandamak only twenty muskets. Of those who left Kabul, only Dr Brydon reached jalalabad, wounded and half dead. Ninety-five prisoners were afterwards recovered. The garrison of Ghazni had already been forced to surrender (December 10). But General Nott held Kandahar with a stern hand, and General Sale, who had reached Jalalabad from Kabul at the beginning of the outbreak, maintained that important point gallantly. To avenge these disasters and recover the prisoners preparations were made in India on a fitting scale; but it was the 16th of April 1842 before General Pollock could relieve Jalalabad, after forcing the Khyber Pass. After a long halt there he advanced (August 20), and gaining rapid successes, occupied Kabul (September 15), where Nott, after retaking and dismantling Ghazni, joined him two days later. The prisoners were happily recovered from Bamian. The citadel and central bazaar of Kabul were destroyed, and the army finally evacuated Afghanistan, December 1842.
This ill-planned and hazardous enterprise was fraught with the elements of inevitable failure. A ruler imposed upon a free people by foreign arms is always unpopular; he is unable to stand alone; and his foreign auxiliaries soon find themselves obliged to choose between remaining to uphold his power, or retiring with the probability that it will fall after their departure. The leading chiefs of Afghanistan perceived that the maintenance of Shah Shuja's rule by British troops would soon be fatal to their own power and position in the country, and probably to their national independence. They were insatiable in their demands for office and emolument, and when they discovered that the shah, acting by the advice of the British envoy, was levying from among their tribesmen regiments to be directly under his control, they took care that the plan should fail. Without a regular revenue no effective administration could be organized; but the attempt to raise taxes showed that it might raise the people, so that for both men and money the shah's government was still obliged to rely principally upon British aid. All these circumstances combined to render the new régime weak and unpopular, since there was no force at the ruler's command except foreign troops to put down disorder or to protect those who submitted, while the discontented nobles fomented disaffection and the inbred hatred of strangers in race and religion among the general Afghan population.
British and Russian Relations.—It has been said that the declared object of this policy had been to maintain the independence and integrity of Afghanistan, to secure the friendly alliance of its ruler, and thus to interpose a great barrier of mountainous country between the expanding power of Russia in Central Asia and the British dominion in India. After 1849, when the annexation of the Punjab had carried the Indian north-western frontier up to the skirts of the Afghan highlands, the corresponding advance of the Russians south-eastward along the Oxus river became of closer interest to the British, particularly when, in 1856, the Persians again attempted to take possession of Herat. Dost Mahommed now became the British ally, but on his death in 1863 the kingdom fell back into civil war, until his son, Shere Ali, had won his way to undisputed ruler ship in 1868. In the same year Bokhara became a dependency of Russia. To the British government an attitude of non-intervention in Afghan affairs appeared in this situation to be no longer possible. The meeting between the amir Shere Ali and the viceroy of India (Lord Mayo) at Umballa in 1869 drew nearer the relations between the two governments; the amir consolidated and began to centralize his power; and the establishment of a strong, friendly and united Afghanistan became again the keynote of British policy beyond the north-western frontier of India.
When, therefore, the conquest of Khiva in 1873 by the Russians, and their gradual approach towards the amir's northern border, had seriously alarmed Shere Ali, he applied for support to the British; and his disappointment at his failure to obtain distinct pledges of material assistance, and at Great Britain's refusal to endorse all his claims in a dispute with Persia over Seistan, so far estranged him from the British Connexion that he began to entertain amicable overtures from the Russian authorities at Tashkend. In 1869 the Russian government had assured Lord Clarendon that they regarded Afghanistan as completely outside the sphere of their influence; and in 1872 the boundary line of Afghanistan on the north-west had been settled between England and Russia so far eastward as Lake Victoria.
Nevertheless the correspondence between Kabul and Tashkend continued, and as the Russians were now extending their dominion over all the region beyond Afghanistan on the north-west, the British government determined, in 1876, once more to undertake active measures for securing their political ascendancy in that country. But the amir, whose feelings of resentment had by no means abated, was now leaning toward Russia, though he mainly desired to hold the balance between two equally formidable rivals. The result of overtures made to him from India was that in 1877, when Lord Lytton, acting under direct instructions from Her Majesty's ministry, proposed to Shere Ali a treaty of alliance, Shere Ali showed himself very little disposed to welcome the offer; and upon his refusal to admit a British agent into Afghanistan the negotiations finally broke down.
Second Afghan War, 1878–80.—In the course of the following year (1878) the Russian government, to counteract the interference of England with their advance upon Constantinople, sent an envoy to Kabul empowered to make a treaty with the amir. It was immediately notified to him from India that a British mission would be deputed to his capital, but he demurred to receiving it; and when the British envoy was turned back on the Afghan frontier hostilities were proclaimed by the Viceroy in November 1878, and the second Afghan War began. Sir Donald Stewart's force, marching up through Baluchistan by the Bolan Pass, entered Kandahar with little or no resistance; while another army passed through the Khyber Pass and took up positions at Ialalabad and other places on the direct road to Kabul. Another force under Sir Frederick Roberts marched up to the high passes leading out of Kurram into the interior of Afghanistan, defeated the amir's troops at the Peiwar Kotal, and seized the Shutargardan Pass which commands a direct route to Kabul through the `Logar valley. The amir Shere Ali fled from his capital into the northern province, where he died at Mazar-i-Sharif in February 1879. In the course of the next six months there was much desultory skirmishing between the tribes and the British troops, who defeated various attempts to dislodge them from the positions that had been taken up; but the sphere of British military operations was not materially extended. It was seen that the farther they advanced the more difficult would become their eventual retirement; and the problem was to find a successor to Shere Ali who could and would make terms with the British government.
In the meantime Yakub Khan, one of Shere Ali's sons, had announced to Major Cavagnari, the political agent at the headquarters of the British army, that he had succeeded his father at Kabul. The negotiations that followed ended in the conclusion of the treaty of Gandamak in May 1879, by which Yakub Khan was recognized as amir; certain outlying tracts of Afghanistan were transferred to the British government; the amir placed in its hands the entire control of his foreign relations, receiving in return a guarantee against foreign aggression; and the establishment of a British envoy at Kabul was at last conceded. By this convention the complete success of the British political and military operations seemed to have been attained; for whereas Shere Ali had made a treaty of alliance with, and had received an embassy from Russia, his son had now made an exclusive treaty with the British government, and had agreed that a British envoy should reside permanently at his court. Yet it was just this final concession, the chief and original object of British policy, that proved speedily fatal to the whole settlement. For in September the envoy, Sir Louis Cavagnari, with his staff and escort, was massacred at Kabul, and the entire fabric of a friendly alliance went to pieces. A fresh expedition was instantly dispatched across the Shutargardan Pass under Sir Frederick Roberts, who defeated the Afghans at Charasia near Kabul, and entered the city in October. Yakub Khan, who had surrendered, was sent to India; and the British army remained in military occupation of the district round Kabul until in December (1879) its communications with India were interrupted, and its position at the capital placed in serious jeopardy, by a general rising of the tribes. After they had been repulsed and put down, not without some hard fighting, Sir Donald Stewart, who had not quitted Kandahar, brought a force up by Ghazni to Kabul, overcoming some resistance on his way, and assumed the supreme command. Nevertheless the political situation was still embarrassing, for as the whole country beyond the range of British effective military control was master less, it was undesirable to withdraw the troops before a government could be reconstructed which could stand without foreign support, and with which diplomatic relations of some kind might be arranged. The general position and prospect of political affairs in Afghanistan bore, indeed, an instructive resemblance to the situation just forty years earlier, in 1840, with the important differences that the Punjab and Sind had since become British, and that communications between Kabul and India were this time secure.
Reign of Abdur Rahman.—Abdur Rahman, the son of the late amir Shere Ali's elder brother, had fought against Shere Ali in the war for succession to Dost Mahommed, had been driven beyond the Oxus, and had lived for ten years in exile with the Russians. In March 1880 he came back across the river, and began to establish himself in the northern province of Afghanistan. The viceroy of India, Lord Lytton, on hearing of his reappearance, instructed the political authorities at Kabul to communicate with him. By skilful negotiations a meeting was arranged, and after pressing in vain for a treaty he was induced to assume charge of the country upon his recognition by the British as amir, with the understanding that he should have no relations with other foreign powers, and with a formal assurance from the viceroy of protection from foreign aggression, so long as he should unreservedly follow the advice of the British government in regard to his external affairs. The province of Kandahar was severed from the Kabul dominion; and the sirdar Shere Ali Khan, a member of the Barakzai family, was installed by the British representative as its independent ruler.
For the second time in the course of this war a conclusive settlement of Afghan affairs seemed now to have been attained; and again, as in 1879, it was immediately dissolved. In July 1880, a few days after the proclamation of Abdur Rahman as amir at Kabul, came news that Ayub Khan, Shere Ali's younger son, who had been holding Herat since his father's death, had marched upon Kandahar, had utterly defeated at Maiwand a British force that went out from Kandahar to oppose him, and was besieging that city. Sir Frederick Roberts at once set out from Kabul with 10,000 men to its relief, reached Kandahar after a rapid march of 313 miles, attacked and routed Ayub Khan's army on the 1st of September, and restored British authority in southern Afghanistan. As the British ministry had resolved to evacuate Kandahar, the sirdar Shere Ali Khan, who saw that he could not stand alone, resigned and withdrew to India, and the amir Abdur Rahman was invited to take possession of the province. But when Ayub Khan, who had meanwhile retreated to Herat, heard that the British forces had retired, early in 1881, to India, he mustered a fresh army and again approached Kandahar. In June the-fort of Girishk, on the Helmund, was seized by his adherents; the amir's troops were defeated some days later in an engagement, and Ayub Khan took possession of Kandahar at the end of July. The amir Abdur Rahman, whose movements had hitherto been slow and uncertain, now acted with vigour and decision. He marched rapidly from Kabul at the head of a force, with which he encountered Ayub Khan under the walls of Kandahar, and routed his army on 22nd September, taking all his guns and equipage. Ayub Khan fled toward Herat, but as the place had meanwhile been occupied by one of the amir's generals he took refuge in Persia. By this victory Abdur Rahman's ruler ship was established.
In 1884 it was determined to resume the demarcation, by a joint commission of British and Russian officers, of the northern boundary of Afghanistan. The work went on with much difficulty and contention, until in March 1885, when the amir was at Rawalpindi for a conference with the viceroy of India, Lord Dufferin, the news came that at Panjdeh, a disputed place on the boundary held by the Afghans, the Russians had attacked and driven out with some loss the amir's troops. For the moment the consequences seemed likely to be serious; but the affair was arranged diplomatically, and the demarcation proceeded up to a point near the Oxus river, beyond which the commission were unable to settle an agreement.
During the ten years following his accession in 1880 Abdur Rahman employed himself in extending and consolidating his dominion over the whole country. Some local revolts among the tribes were rigorously suppressed; and two attempts to upset his rulership—the first by Ayub Khan, who entered Afghanistan from Persia, the second and more dangerous one by Ishak Khan, the amir's cousin, who rebelled against him in Afghan Turkestan—were defeated. By 1891 the amir had enforced his supreme authority throughout Afghanistan more completely than any of his predecessors. In 1895 the amir's troops entered Kafiristan, a wild mountainous tract on the north-east, inhabited by a peculiar race that had hitherto defied all efforts to subjugate them, but were now gradually reduced to submission. Meanwhile the delimitation of the northern frontier, up to the point where it meets Chinese territory on the east, was completed and fixed by arrangements between the governments of Russia and Great Britain; and the eastern border of the Afghan territory, towards India, was also mapped out and partially laid down, in accordance with a convention between the two governments. The amir not only received a large annual subsidy of money from the British government, but he also obtained considerable supplies of war material; and he, moreover, availed himself very freely of facilities that were given him for the importation at his own cost of arms through India. With these resources, and with the advantage of an assurance from the British government that he would be aided against foreign aggression, he was able to establish an absolute military despotism inside his kingdom, by breaking down the power of the warlike tribes which held in check, up to his time, the personal autocracy of the Kabul rulers, and by organizing a regular army well furnished with European rifles and artillery. Taxation of all kinds was heavily increased, and systematically collected. The result was that whereas in former times the forces of an Afghan ruler consisted mainly of a militia, furnished by the chiefs of tribes who held land on condition of military service, and who stoutly resisted any attempt to commute this service for money payment, the amir had at his command a large standing army, and disposed of a substantial revenue paid direct to his treasury. Abdur Rahman executed or exiled all those whose political influence he saw reason to fear, or of whose disaffection he had the slightest suspicion; his administration was severe and his punishments were cruel; but undoubtedly he put down disorder, stopped the petty tyranny of local chiefs and brought violent crime under some effective control in the districts. Travelling by the high roads during his reign was comparatively safe; although it must be added that the excessive exactions of dues and customs very seriously damaged the external trade. In short, Abdur Rahman's reign produced an important political revolution, or reformation, in Afghanistan, which rose from the condition of a country distracted by chronic civil wars, under rulers whose authority depended upon their power to hold down or conciliate fierce and semi-independent tribes in the outlying parts of the dominion, to the rank of a formidable military state governed autocratically. He established, for the first time in the history of the Afghan kingdom, a powerfully centralized administration strong enough to maintain order and to enforce obedience over all the country which he had united under his dominion, supported by a force sufficiently armed and disciplined to put down attempts at resistance or revolt. His policy, consistently maintained, was to permit no kind of foreign interference, on any pretext, with the interior concerns or the economical conditions of his country. From the British government he accepted supplies of arms and subsidies of money; but he would make no concessions in return, and all projects of a strategical or commercial nature, such as railways and telegraphs, proposed either for the defence or the development of his possessions, seem to have been regarded by the amir with extreme distrust, as methods of what has been called pacific penetration—so that on these points he was immovable. It was probably due to the strength and solidity of the executive administration organized, during his lifetime, by Abdur Rahman that, for the first time in the records of the dynasty founded by Ahmad Shah in the latter part of the 18th century, his death was not followed by disputes over the succession or by civil war.
Succession of Habibullah.—The amir Abdur Rahman died on the 1st of October 1901; and two days later his eldest son, Habibullah, formally announced his accession to the rulership. He was recognized with acclamation by the army, by the religious bodies, by the principal tribal chiefs and by all classes of the people as their lawful sovereign; while a deputation of Indian Mahommedans was dispatched to Kabul from India to convey the condolences and congratulations of the viceroy. The amir's first measures were designed to enhance his popularity and to improve his internal administration, particularly with regard to the relations of his government with the tribes, and to the system introduced by the late amir of compulsory military service, whereby each tribe was required to supply a proportionate number of recruits. With this object a council of state for tribal affairs was established; and it was arranged that a representative of each tribe should be associated with the provincial governors for the adjudication of tribal cases.
In the important matter of foreign relations Habibullah showed a determination to adopt the policy of his father, to whom the British government had given an assurance of aid to repel foreign aggression, on the condition that the amir should follow the advice of that government in regard to external affairs. This condition was loyally observed by the new amir, who referred to India all communications of an official kind received from the Russian authorities in the provinces bordering on Afghanistan. But toward the various questions left pending between the governments of India and Afghanistan the new amir maintained also his father's attitude. He gave no indications of a disposition to continue the discussion of them, or to entertain proposals for extending or altering his relations with the Indian government. An invitation from the Viceroy to meet him in India, with the hope that these points might be settled in conference, was put aside by dilatory excuses, until at last the project was abandoned, and finally the amir agreed to receive at Kabul a diplomatic mission. The mission, whose chief was Sir Louis Dane, foreign secretary to the Indian government, reached Kabul early in December 1904, and remained there four months in negotiation with the amir personally and with his representatives. It was found impossible, after many interviews, to obtain from Habibullah his consent to any addition to or variation of the terms of the assurance given by the British government in 1880, with which he professed himself entirely satisfied, so that the treaty finally settled in March 1905 went no further than a formal confirmation of all engagements previously concluded with the amir's predecessor. It was felt in British circles at the time that a very considerable concession to Habibullah's independence of attitude was displayed in the fact that he was styled in the treaty "His Majesty"; but, in the circumstances, it seems to have been thought diplomatic to accede to the amir's determination to insist on this matter of style. But the rebuff showed that it was desirable in the interests both of the British government and of Afghanistan that an opportunity should be made for enabling the amir to have personal acquaintance with the highest Indian authorities. A further step, calculated to strengthen the relations of amity between the two governments, was taken when it was arranged that the amir should pay a visit to the viceroy, Lord Minto, in India, in January 1907; and this visit took place with great cordiality and success.
The Anglo-Russian Convention, signed on the 31st of August 1907, contained the following important declarations with regard to Afghanistan. Great Britain disclaimed any intention of altering the political status or (subject to the observance of the treaty of 1905) of interfering in the administration or annexing any territory of Afghanistan, and engaged to use her influence there in no manner threatening to Russia. Russia, on her part, recognized Afghanistan as outside her sphere of influence.
- We owe our knowledge of the geology of Afghanistan almost entirely to the observations of C. L. Griesbach, and a summary of his researches will be found in Records of the Geological Survey of India, vol. xx. (1887), pp. 93-103, with map.