Sunday, 17 February 2013

Massacre on the Roof of the World

The first British invasion of Afghanistan in 1839 ended three years later in disaster . . .

The last stand of the 44th Foot at Gandamak, January 13, 1842, during the disastrous retreat of British garrison and refugees

“If you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains,

And the women come out to cut up the remains,
Just roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
And go to your God like a soldier.”

- Rudyard Kipling

At the end of Kim, Kipling has his eponymous hero say, “When everyone is dead, the Great Game is finished. Not before.” In the 1980s, it was the Russians’ withdrawal from their failed occupation of Afghanistan that triggered the beginning of the end of the Soviet Union. Less than 20 years later, in 2001, British and American troops arrived in Afghanistan, where they proceeded to begin losing what was, in Britain’s case, its fourth war in that country. As before, in the end, despite all the billions of dollars handed out, the training of an entire army of Afghan troops and the infinitely superior weaponry of the occupiers, the Afghan resistance succeeded again in first surrounding then propelling the hated Kafirs into a humiliating exit.

William Dalrymple draws parallels with the current campaign in his new book.


Anonymous said...

I have had this print hanging in my office/den for many years as a 'reminder'..never thought I'd see these 44th shako's elsewhere!

I believe there was one survivor, Lt Souter who wrapped himself in the colors and was spared for ransom because the Pathans thought he must be rich.

Minicapt said...