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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 57

IV.—A Line of Works Behind the Indus, Combined with the Occupation of the Provinces of Kábal and Kandahár, and the Perfecting of Communications by Road and Railway with India and Along its Front

IV.—A Line of Works Behind the Indus, Combined with the Occupation of the Provinces of Kábal and Kandahár, and the Perfecting of Communications by Road and Railway with India and Along its Front.

This position, together with the occupation of the Hindú Kush and Paropamisus with the power of taking the initiative beyond Herát and in Afghán Turkistán, is that which the train of reasoning adopted at the commencement of this paper pointed to as sufficient for the defence of india: the main defects of the former assumed cases disappear—no outflanking is possible to any great extent that cannot be met by a small force.

The entrenched camps are no longer threatened and need not be held in force, and whatever their eventual value may be, it will remain to them even although the advanced troops may be forced to retire upon them eventually.

The passes are held throughout.

The position is approximately that considered sufficient by Sir E. Hamley, who viewing the position "as an abstract military plan for the defence of India under present circumstances (1884), and supposing sufficient additional troops to be forthcoming," advocated "a strong British Government at Kandahár, wielding an army whose advanced posts should be at Kábal and Herát, based on Karáchi, with railway communication at least thence to Kandahár."

It differs from it in considering that Kábál and Ghazní with their advanced posts about khinján, Bamián, Lal, &c., must be held from pesháwar and the direct rear and not from kandahár, and that more extended railway communication is desirable within the northern and southern zones.

N.B.—From Miles.
Pesháwar to Kábal 175
Kandáhar to Kábal 320
Kábal to Ghazní 90
Banú to Ghazní 150
Quetta to Sistín 500

In this system of defence, Khinján, Bamian, and favourable points in the Besú-Hazára, Deh-i-Zangi Hazára and Deh-i-Kúndi Hazára districts are of great importance; for they are fertile districts, and the three latter are the granaries of Hazára, and abound in sheep, fodder and firewood; and transport (horses, mules and donkeys) is abundant. Communications with Kábal are, or can be, readily made passable to artillery; the country is hilly, but with page 16 wide and fertile valleys well populated and offering few difficulties to the movement of troops.

The preceding cases, I, II, III, IV, and former considerations, will have shown that, for military purposes of defence, Afghánistán is an outwork of India and must be defended by her best troops. To render the abstract military plan concrete, Afghanistán must be occupied; if not with the acquiescence of the Afgháns, then without it, for the Afghán troops are not good enough, nor can the nation be trusted not to make the best terms she can with the power assumed to be the stronger or whom she may fear most. If at their request, well; but if against it, it cannot be helped. The occupation of any one part of Afghánistán, such as the Kandahár Province, is as likely to array the nation against us as the occupation of the whole.

The means of hurling upon India masses of Asiatic cavalry under the banner of blood and rapine must be rendered impossible; the wealth of India and her coast line as well as that of the Persian Gulf are the irresistible lodestones which must draw the invader onwards; therefore, the power to threaten India must be made as difficult as possible.

To wait and watch, and to allow Russia to occupy Afghánistán in the hope that we shall then be in time to turn her out at the request of the conquered Afgháns tired of an oppressive yoke, and to trust to their sense of freedom and love of liberty as our greatest support against Russia, has been demonstrated to be a policy which would give to Russia an impregnable military position from which it would be impossible to oust her.

The arguments raised against the occupation of the Kábal Province are—
(i)the difficulties of supply and of transport;
(ii)the division of command and the distance between the Pesháwar and Karáchi bases;
(iii)the difficulty of traversing the long passes and the processional order in which they must be threaded;
(iv)the danger of leaving unruly tribes in rear;
(v)that the front Kábal-Kandahár is defective, in that the communication between the chief points along it is along its front and not in the rear, and that consequently when attacked its defenders must retire by separate passes without intercommunication.

The difficulties of transport and supply are reduced to a minimum by railways. The Kábal Province can feed, with proper arrangements for tapping its distant, as well as near, resources, from 50 to 60,000 troops. During temporary occupation of a province its supplies in the immediate vicinity of the army alone can be requisitioned; when permanent occupation and administration are intended, the whole district can be drawn upon.


The right and centre are the defensive zones of the theatre, and cooperation with the force actively operating in the southern zone could be sufficiently carried on through the Hazára country and Indian lines of telegraph.


The difficulty of threading a long pass is reduced to a minimum so long as it is held in the military sense. It is when it is defended by an enemy that the processional order of traversing it becomes dangerous.

When in occupation the troops can be concentrated in the open valleys and the route organized and provisioned to its extreme point; it is only when the passes are defended that concentration is prevented, and this fact points to the necessity of securing them by the occupation of Kábal and Ghazní; an argument in favour of the occupation of the province instead of against it.


It would be more dangerous to leave the tribes to the front than to the rear. In what does their unruliness consist? In refusing to join us unless we page 17 promise to protect and take them under our rule for ever, and not to hand them over, when we have done with them, to the mercies of other masters to whom we may bequeath our rule.

Not to keep them in rear and in cheek is to give them the opportunity of harassing by flank attacks our lines of communication in the southern zone; to allow them to continue lawless and to occupy an impossible place amongst other peoples: that they can be tutored into submission and loyalty has been put forward elsewhere. Should we fail to do this, the anguish will be ours to know that what our fathers failed to do and what we neglected, will have fallen to the lot of another, not more powerful nation, but one with greater determination to carry out her civilizing mission, and that she will be rewarded by a very material addition to her military power.


The front Kábal-Kandahár cannot be attacked in any force except about Kábal and Kandahár. If driven from the former position and the Khyber pass be defended by field works thrown up to cover its entrance and at the most difficult points along its length, and with its outlet covered by works at Pesháwar, it should be impossible to force. And if driven from the vicinity of Kandahár the retirement would be orderly and back upon reserves. In either case it is necessary that the country should have been previously well occupied, communications opened, and our authority established. The same is the case with the Ghazni force; its retirement should be orderly and easily covered by the rear-guard; its flanks could not be assailed, and although one force cannot readily help the other, their safety is not compromised and junction is unnecessary on the west side of the Indus.