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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 57

Co-Operation of British And Afghán Forces

Co-Operation of British And Afghán Forces.

The ruling idea upon which the above plan of campaign in Afghánistán for the defence of India is based is that the Afgháns are heartily willing that a British force should co-operate with them in the defence of their country.

That this idea is one that will stand the test of time many will gainsay: whether or not that a barbarous power professing a fanatical religion can stand between two civilizing agencies is against both the laws of humanity and the teachings of history.

Granting now that the idea is a baseless one, and that on the lifting of the curtain, or at all events before the end of the first act of the play, the nature of the farce being enacted becomes apparent; that the Afgháns, unaided by British officers and British troops, &c., lose ground without even offering a moderate resistance to a better trained foe, and it becomes clear that the British and Afghán powers cannot act together independently and yet harmoniously, it will then be necessary for the British Power to take such measures as shall enable its troops to push into the hills enveloping the right or northern and central zones of the theatre, and, so soon as material advantages are gained in the southern zone, or in the direction of, and beyond, Herát, to take the initiative beyond the Hindú Kush, or at least occupy the mouths of the passes and threaten the Turkistán base of the Russian forces in Central Asia, i.e., the line Samarkand and Margilán.

No war with a sincerely friendly power is desirable; all that is insisted upon is based upon the instinct of self-preservation which is strong in us all, and amounts to this that, nolens volens, Afghánistán must be administered to both her own and our advantage, and that we must permanently do so, and also occupy certain military positions, even at the risk of having to use such pressure as shall force her to bow to our will and unwillingly to benefit herself.

To help the Amír the proposals made are necessary, and to help ourselves in spite of him they are necessary.

The possibility of this action becoming necessary becomes a certainty when we consider that this is that part of Afghánistán the inhabitants of which are least under the Afghán yoke, and who would be least inclined to allow to their hated masters free movement through their hills or to aid them by transport and supplies. The idea then that the Afgháns can carry on, in this hilly region, a desultory war against an invader must be set on one side. There remains but one alternative, we must do it ourselves.

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At a time when many may be thinking only of the railway lines required cis-Indus and neglecting those trans-frontier, it is well to remark that the latter are most urgently required and that the former can wait; consequently, that before one rupee is spent on the cis-Indus lines, cores should belaid out on the imperial strategical lines trans-frontier, for without them the home Indian lines are worse than valueless employing labour and money that should be expanded elsewhere and giving rise in the mind of the nation to a false security for which there is no guarantee beyond a vague and plausible, but erroneous idea that it ought to be the proper thing to fight nearer home. See pages 21, 24.

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That the races of Afghán-Turkistán and Herát are more allied to the Russian subjects of Central Asia than to the Afgháns is an advantage and a disadvantage to Russia; an advantage, as it attracts them towards her, and a disadvantage, as it repels the Afgháns south of the Hindu Kush and throws them into the arms of the power espousing the counter cause, and this notwithstanding that our help to the Amír must cause amongst the general Afghan population a hatred to ourselves who aid him to oppress them, it being the general opinion that he keeps the reins of power only by the aid of the sword (our money pays his army to wield it) and bloodshed.

The Hazáras, Shiáhs, alike hate and are hated by the Suni Afgháns and Turkománs, and must be enlisted on our side.