Afghan War, Third (1919)PRINCIPAL COMBATANTS: Afghanistan vs. Britain (Anglo-Indian forces)
PRINCIPAL THEATER(S): India (Bagh region) and Afghanistan
DECLARATION: May 1919, proclamation of jihad (holy war)
MAJOR ISSUES AND OBJECTIVES: Afghanistan sought independence from all foreign domination.
OUTCOME: Armistice and British recognition of Afghan independence
APPROXIMATE MAXIMUM NUMBER OF MEN UNDER ARMS:Afghans, 10,000; Anglo-Indian forces, comparable
CASUALTIES: Afghan, unknown; Anglo-British, 236 killed,615 wounded
TREATIES: Treaty of Rawalpindi, August 8, 1919
During WORLD WAR I Afghanistan successfully struggled to remain neutral. However, throughout the period 1914–18 Germany and its ally Turkey provoked anti- British religious agitation within the country. Britain tried to quell anti-British sentiment within the government by granting Afghanistan liberal subsidies. The funds were well spent, in that Afghanistan remained neutral for the duration of the Great War. Shortly after the Armistice, however, Amanullah Khan (1892–1960) ascended the Afghan throne as the nation’s new emir following the assassination of his father, Habibullah (1872–1919). Amanullah was backed by the army and the radically nationalist Young Afghan Party, which, in 1919, gave him a mandate to declare independence, including freedom from all foreign influence, especially that of Russia and Britain. As in previous conflicts with the country, British officials were concerned that an independence movement in Afghanistan would threaten Britain’s colonial hold on India. Following British saber rattling, Amanullah proclaimed a jihad (holy war) against Britain and sent some 10,000 troops across the Indian border and into the province of Bagh, which was occupied on May 3, 1919. In response, an Anglo-Indian force under General Reginald Dyer (1864–1927) was dispatched through the Khyber Pass to Landi Kotal and, from here, drove the invaders out of Bagh by May 11. Punitive air raids against Afghan cities were also ordered.The Anglo-Indians then invaded Afghanistan as far as Dakka. In the meantime, the British air raids on Jalalabad and the Afghan capital city of Kabul were taking their toll. Amanullah sued for peace, and an armistice was concluded on May 31, followed by the Treaty of Rawalpindi on August 8, whereby Britain acknowledged Afghan independence in return for an Afghan pledge to cease harassment of the Afghan-Indian border.The peace proved nominal at best, as Afghan guerrillas sporadically continued to open fire along the border.On November 22, 1921, the Treaty of Rawalpindi was reaffirmed, and the British discontinued their practice of subsidy payments.
See also AFGHAN WAR, FIRST; AFGHAN WAR, SECOND.
Further reading: Edgar O’Ballance, Afghan Wars, 1839–1992 (New York: Brassey’s, 1993).