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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 57

Central Zone (defensive)

Central Zone (defensive).

Ghazni, an outpost to both Kábal and Kandahár, is situated in a well supplied district 90 miles from Kábal and 230 miles from Kandahár: it aids to block both the Kábal and Kandahár routes to India by taking them in flank; an easy communication by the Gomal, as yot unopened, connects it with Dera Ismail Khán, and another equally easy and, also as yet unopened, viâ the Tochi river, connects it with Banú; the latter is about 150 and the former about 290 miles long; another route, partially opened, leads into the Kuram Valley.

But these lines of communication are vulnerable unless Kábal and Kandahár are held; it results, therefore, that it cannot stand alone.

Taking Ghazni as the point d'appui of this zone no roads penetrate it that have not been allowed for in considering the Northern Zone, or that do not come under the influence of the Southern Zone: it will suffice therefore to station there a reserve of 5,000 troops for convenience of supply and to meet surprises, and this number will suffice whether the Afgháns be with us or against us, for it can be readily reinforced from Kábal and viâ the Gomal and Tochi passes direct from India.

In the Northern Zone and still more so in the Central Zone the narrowness and difficulty of the roads limit the extent of the fighting front, but to no very great extent the power of concentrating troops, for bodies of 8 to 10,000 men with mule carriage could move along them 10 miles daily each day, the tail of the column closing upon and camping with its head. To prevent concentration the hill passes must be defended and their debouches occupied.

The barrier of mountains and the difficulties of roads in the Northern and Central Zones take the place of living defenders: give them up, and the only recourse is to substitute for them a barrier of men. Britain having now to take her place as a military nation, whose borders closely touch those of one of the greatest, most despotic, and most unscrupulous of powers, it becomes of paramount importance to enlist on her side all such physical difficulties of page 19 ground so that security may be obtained at the least cost of men, money, and defensive works.