The British objective to control the oil wells of Central Asia was part of the Great Game to prevent the mighty Russian empire from having access to the oil fields. Former British Governor of the NorthWest Frontier Province during the British Raj days, Sir Olaf Caroe (Sir Olaf Caroe organized the Viceroy’s Study Group - VSG in 1942 in his capacity as Foreign Secretary in Britain’s Government of India ) used to say that the shadow of the north (meaning = Russia) must not extend over the wells of power. Britain realized during World War II that the one who controls the oil fields controls the destiny of many nations. As a result, beginning 1940, south Asia was important to imperial Britain, for the protection of oil fields of Arabia.
Before coming to this part, it is important to put a historical context to Afghanistan.
According to the Encyclopaedia of Islam the word Pathan is from the Sanskrit word Pratisthana.
The original Afghans are a race of probably Jewish or Arab extraction; and they together with a tribe of Indian origin with which they have long been blended still distinguish themselves as the true Afghans, or since the rise of Ahmad Shah Durrani as Durranis, and class all non-Durrani Pushto speakers as Opra. But they have lately given their name to Afghanistan, the country formerly known as Khorasan.
THE JEWISH CONNECTION TO AFGHANISTAN:
Afghan Jewry may date back 2,700 years to the destruction of the Temple and the Babylonian exile.
Several Jewish Afghan histories are circulating. Early biblical commentators regarded Khorasan as a location of the Ten Lost Tribes. Today, several Afghan tribes including the Durrani, Yussafzai, Afridi and Pashtun believe they are decedents of King Saul. They call themselves Bani-Israel, similar to the Hebrew, B'nai Israel, meaning the children of Israel. Even some Muslim scholars and writers accept this. The exiled Afghan Royal family also traces its roots to ancient Israel, the tribe of Benjamin specifically. As evidence, they cite Makhzan-i-Afghani , a chronicle published in 1635, in the time of King Jahangir by Khawaja Nimatullah of Herat.
The Pashtun, the main Afghan ethnic group and Taliban supporters, also believe they are descended from the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel , and later converted to Islam. Dozens of Pashtun names and customs sound Jewish, from the Pashtun tribe names of Asheri and Naftali to the Pashtun custom of a wedding chupah and the circumcising of the sons on the eighth day after birth. The Pashtuns claim that the city of Kabul stands for "Cain and Abel" and Afghanistan is derived from "Afghana," the grandson of King Saul of the tribe of Benjamin.
NOTE: The Pashtuns have refused to undergo DNA testing to trace its Jewish roots.
Afghanistan was an important crossroads, dominated by other civilizations throughout its history. By 522 BC Darius the Great extended the boundaries of the Persian Empire into most of the region. By 330 BC. Alexander the Great conquered Persia and Afghanistan. When Hsuan-Tsang visited the region early in the 7th century CE, the Kabul valley region was ruled by a Hindu Kshatriya king, who is identified as the Shahi Khingal, and whose name has been found in an inscription found in Gardez.
The Hindu Shahi kings of Kabul and Gandhara (today's Kandahar) may have had links to some ruling families in neighboring Kashmir and other areas to the east. The Shahis, though Hindu, were rulers a multi religious Buddhists, Zoroastrian, and pagan population and were thus patrons of numerous faiths, and various artifacts and coins from their rule have been found that display their multicultural domain. The Last Shahi rulers Jayapal, Anandapal and Trilochanpal fought Muslim Turjks from Europe and were gradually defeated. They then retreated to the Punjab.
Buddhism was introduced in 50 AD, when Afghanistan became part of the Kushanid Empire. Hephtatlites (White Huns) invaded in the 5th century and destroyed the Buddhist culture.
From 225 to 600 AD, Sassanians (Persians) established control. The first Muslim-Arab conquests occurred from 652 to 654. A succession of dynasties, the Ghaznavid, Ghorid and Timurid ruled the area from 997 to 1506 AD. Babur, the founder of India’s Mughul Dynasty governed Kabul in 1504.
Khushhal Khan Khattak, a famous Afghan warrior poet, led a rebellion against the Mughul Dynasty in the 1600s. Mir Wais Khan Hotaki revolted against Safavid rule and took over Kandahar in 1708. By 1736 Afsharid ruler, Nadir Shaw, gained control of the region. In 1747 Nadir was assassinated. Later that year Ahmad Durrani was elected king by a council of tribal leaders. During the 1760s, Ahmad Shah Durrani extended Afghanistan’s borders into part of India. The nation of Afghanistan finally began to take shape under the leadership of Ahmad Shah Durrani after centuries of invasions. Timur, Ahmad Shah Durrani’s son, succeeded to the throne in 1773. He ruled Afghanistan until his death in 1793, leaving over 20 sons. Timur’s descendants were later engaged in a struggle for power. His son Zaman Shah became king in 1793. Zaman Shah’s brother Mahmud captured the throne in 1800. In 1803, another brother Shah Shuja reigned after replacing Mahmud. Mahmud forced Shuja to flee in 1809 and remained king until he was driven from the throne in 1817. From 1818 until 1826, Afghanistan disintegrated into a group of small units each ruled by a different Durrani leader.
IMPORTANT TO NOTE - DATE & PLAYERS:
During this time the “Great Game” between Great Britain and Russia was beginning to be played out. “The Great Game” involved not only the confrontation of two great empires whose spheres of influence moved steadily closer to one another until they met in Afghanistan, but also the repeated attempts by a foreign power to impose a puppet government in Kabul.
First Anglo-Afghan War
The next leader, Dost Muhammad, ascended to the throne in 1826. Concerned about growing Persian and Russian influences, the British, along with former King Shuja, invaded Afghanistan in late 1838 while Dost Muhammad was still in power. Shuja was killed a few years later and the British were defeated. Dost Muhammad returned to the throne in 1843.
( Digress for a moment to present :UK -US -NATO FEAR INDO-IRAN-RUSSIAN NEXUS (the same nexus that helped Northern Alliance topple Taliban in Afghanistan. Hence US may again prop up Taliban - the game goes on).
Treaty of Peshawar
During the years after the First Anglo-Afghan War the Russians, interested in the territories of Central Asia, advanced southward. The British, hoping to stop Russian advances, resumed relations with Dost Muhammad in 1854. In 1855 the Treaty of Peshawar proclaimed respect for Afghanistan’s and Britain’s territorial integrity and declared each to be friends of each other’s friends and enemies of each other’s enemies. In 1856 the Anglo-Persian War broke out and the Qajar Dynasty took Herat back into its control.
Second Anglo-Afghan War
During the 1860s the Russians intensified their southeastern advances. “The Russian foreign minister claimed the Russian movements in Central Asia were taken simply to unite Russia, not to oppose any other government.”In 1872, Russia signed an agreement with Great Britain consenting to respect the northern boundaries of Afghanistan. King Sher Ali permitted an uninvited Russian delegate to enter Kabul in July 1878. Hoping to retain the British influence, British Viceroy Lord Lytton ordered a diplomatic mission to travel to Kabul on August 14th. When no reply was received the British sent a military force to cross the Khyber Pass. Afghan authorities refused the British permission to cross. This incident triggered the Second Anglo-Afghan War. On November 21, 1878 approximately 40,000 British soldiers entered Afghanistan. The British withdrew two years later after facing strong resistance from the Afghan forces.
Treaty of Gandomak
At the end of the Second Anglo-Afghan War, the Treaty of Gandomak was completed between the British government and Amir Yaqub Khan. The treaty was to establish peace and friendship between both countries. It provided amnesty for Afghan collaborators with the British occupational forces and committed the amir to conduct his foreign relations with advice from the British Government. Great Britain, in exchange, promised to support the amir against ANY foreign aggression.
Russian Advances 1885
Abdur Rahman Khan ruled Afghanistan from 1880-1901. He modernized the country, formed a strong army, brought in foreign professionals and imported machinery. “Caught between the Russians and the British, Abdur Rahman turned his formidable energies to what turned out to be virtually the creation of the modern state of Afghanistan, while the British and the Russians, with the Afghans as bystanders, determined the borders of the Afghan State.”
Russian forces seized the Merve Oasis inhabited by the Turkoman people in 1884. In 1885 they took possession of the Panjdeh Oasis. Afghan attempts to retake the territory failed. In 1886 the Anglo-Russian Boundary Commission agreed on a border along the Amu Darya River. The Russian-British agreement resulted in a permanent northern frontier, however, much territory was lost in the Panjdeh region.
The Durand Line
On November 12, 1893, Abdur Rahman Khan, and the Foreign Secretary of the Colonial Government of India, Sir Mortimer Durand, agreed to mark the boundary between Afghanistan and British India. The Durand Line cut through Pashtun tribal areas and villages. It was a cause of dispute between the governments of Afghanistan and British India and later between Afghanistan and Pakistan. It remains a source of major instability in the region till today.
A map of Afghanistan, published in 1893, the year Abdur Rahman Khan and Sir Mortimer Durand agreed to mark the boundary between Afghanistan and British India. (CLICK ON MAP TO ENLARGE VIEW)
(NOTICE: BALUCHISTAN (BELOOCHISTAN) exists as a SEPARATE COUNTRY)
Early 20th Century
Abdur Rahman’s son, Habibullah, reigned from 1901-1919. In 1904 a boundary commission determined the border between Iran and Afghanistan. The boundary was accepted by both countries. The Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907 divided Afghanistan into areas of Russian and British influence. Habibullah wanted full Afghan independence and Great Britain’s assistance in an attempt to regain lands taken by the Russians. “Britain far more interested in the European power struggle and the defense of India through an Afghan buffer state was uninterested in such a scheme.” Habibullah was assassinated in 1919. His son Amanullah succeeded him.
Third Anglo - Afghan War:
During his reign the month long Third Anglo-Afghan War of 1919 resulted in complete Afghan independence. The British forces were decimated. Amanullah established diplomatic relationships with Russia in 1919, Iran in 1921 and Great Britain in 1922.
Russia invades Afghanistan again in December 1979 – and we all know of the consequences of that – and the ensuing chaos of Taliban, Al Qaeda etc is well documented.
After the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan, the US also departed from the region to invade Iraq. However, UK stayed back and took over the reins of the Great Game. UK knew the Great Game, after all – they were at it from the very begining.
The following has been taken from Modeling the Great Game in Asia Part One: The Viceroy’s Study Group and Afghanistan written by Dr. Peter John Brobst (Ohio University)
Sir Olaf Caroe and Viceroy’s Study Group:
For the historical conception of the Great Game and its rules, the authors used the work of the Viceroy’s Study Group (VSG). Sir Olaf Caroe organized the VSG in 1942 in his capacity as Foreign Secretary in Britain’s Government of India. The VSG operated in British India until 1945. Their function was to review British planning for the end of the World War II and India’s independence in the postwar era. The notion of a continuous Great Game that preceded and would survive the withdrawal of British rule in India transfixed the VSG’s analytical work.
As a whole, the product of the VSG represents a canonical summation of British imperial concepts and learning relating to the Great Game.
INSIGHTS FROM VSG:
The VSG worked from the premise that the security of the Asian rimland from the Persian Gulf to Indochina “is one complete strategical problem.” The security of the Gulf was bound up with the security of the Indian subcontinent which in turn depended on Burma and Indochina. A stable if not united subcontinent formed the fulcrum in the system. Its fragmentation would leave the wings isolated and the balance broken. This view contrasted with a geospatial perspective both natural and understandable for Americans that located the Gulf on the eastern edge of a European-centered system and Burma and Indochina on the western edge of a Pacific-centered system. But by viewing the region from an Indian center, as the VSG did, events along the Asian rimland since 1945 seem unsurprising, the products of a predictable, albeit complex and dynamic, structure.
To give a concrete example, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 was, as Olaf Caroe, the VSG’s director put it, the predictable (and predicted) “after-effect” of India’s partition in 1947.
By creating two mutually antagonistic successor states in India and Pakistan, the partition effectively turned the subcontinent’s power potential in on itself. For nearly a century beforehand, power based on a stable subcontinent had provided the indispensable counterpoise to Russia that had allowed the emergence of a viable Afghan state. The fragmentation of the counterpoise on the subcontinent allowed Soviet decision-makers to calculate their interests and options in 1979 very differently than their Russian predecessors had in comparable crises in 1885, 1895, and 1925. It is worth emphasizing that the subcontinent’s stability formed a counterpoise in diplomatic and economic terms as well as military ones. The continued hostility of India and Pakistan in the 1990s thus weighed heavily against the reconstruction of security and stability in Afghanistan. The fact that different elements in the Afghan polity pulled variously toward Pakistan, Iran, and former Soviet states in Central Asia was not so much symptomatic of strength on the part of those countries as it was of the subcontinent’s weakness as a center of gravity. (NOTE: IMPORTANT POINT)
Afghanistan consequently reemerged as the kind of base area and seedbed it had once formed in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries for forces of regional instability and terrorism.
Figure one and two review key entities before and after partition for a scenario based on Afghanistan. The <
In contrast, as shown in Figure two, the Great Game following partition inserts new agents into the game, most importantly Pakistan, split into the unwieldy federation bifurcated by another new agent, India. The United States also appeared on the scene as a great power, but they lacked the focus on the goal of maintaining Indian stability that had animated the British in India.
Pakistan and India had territorial goals that forced competition between them, especially in terms of which princely states the Imperial successors would control, with the Kashmir region still a thorn. Post independence, the Great Game now had actors concerned with the type of social organization in the region, with Pakistan organized as an entity protecting Islamic values of some undetermined form in a social polity. The differences between these two models illustrate Caroe’s emphasis on systemic instability that left the Soviet Union room for maneuver to bring troops in the region.
Figure 1: Great Game Afghanistan c. 1935
(CLICK ON MAP FOR AN ENLARGED VIEW)
These diagrams do not suggest a historical determinism, but are snapshots from a broader analytical framework.
For its own part, the VSG explicitly worked to take account of new and emerging factors in its analysis of the Great Game. For instance, the VSG assessment of Afghanistan (as in other country studies the VSG conducted) imbedded a presumption that air power would likely be the dominant mode of strategic projection and organization in the postwar era. The result generated opposing estimations of Afghanistan’s future importance. In the first estimate air power dramatically discounted the importance of Afghanistan to the security of India and by extension to the stability of the Asian rimland. Air power presumably obviated the utility of buffer states, of which Afghanistan was the archetype (the term was actually coined by Sir Alfred Lyall, a British Indian official in the 1870s and 1880s, to describe Afghanistan’s position between Russia in Central Asia and Britain in India). In the second estimate, air power actually increased the value of buffer states, and specifically of Afghanistan. Air power may have increased the strategic reach and speed of attack of its possessors, but it was limited by distance and range. By effectively adding space to the subcontinent, the buffer formed by Afghanistan would buy time—time to detect and intercept the inbound units of an airborne attacker. A similar importance arguably attached to Afghanistan when viewed from the vantage of a power based Central Asia. Either way, air power actually portended an intensification of international competition for influence in and over Afghanistan.
Today the question is not whether air power obviates the Afghan buffer but whether air power obviates the Indian center. To what extent does modern airlift make the reconstruction of a viable Afghan state possible irrespective of the situation on the subcontinent? To what degree of effectiveness does a Central Asian base area for the supply and support of Afghanistan substitute for an Indian center? These considerations can all be folded into the model as values on attributes in the model, providing a framework for debate and analysis using software.
Figure 2: Great Game Post Partition c. 1950
(CLICK ON MAP FOR AN ENLARGED VIEW)
Indeed, the VSG was ultimately concerned to avoid the pitfall of planning, or in their case studying, to fight the last war. Their interest in Afghanistan reflected their presumption of a continuation in the late twentieth century of traditional Russian/Soviet expansionism in Asia, which came to pass. Today’s interest in the country derives from the challenge of Islamic fundamentalism as an organizing principle hostile to cosmopolitan values with territorial ambitions. The potential trouble lies in the distraction from the eastern wing of the rimland system. The VSG argued that the Russian threat on India’s west so consumed British strategy that too little thought was given to the east. When the long-expected great power attack on India’s frontiers actually materialized in World War II, it came not from Russia through Afghanistan but from Japan through Burma. In the context of the Cold War, the VSG’s erstwhile director argued that intelligence assessment must not find itself choosing between “leaving the Himalayas open to China and the Indian Ocean to Russian fleets.” Applied to the current scene, the insight is surely that the Islamist threat in Afghanistan and Iraq and elsewhere not come to so define the morphology of future enemies that we are left surprised by say state-against-state competition igniting flashpoints in the eastern rimland.
The Great Game framework avoids the pitfall while keeping a focus on the priorities at hand. The computational rigor to model the Great Game requires more than a couple of illustrative diagrams. The analytical framework requires much more detail to export the ideas into computational tools.
Part two of this paper reviews the underlying profile that is the core of the model and suggests paths to migrate the insights for computational analysis. For the die-hard game theorists - click on this link.
THE PARTITION OF INDIA:
One of the least understood themes of the partition of India in 1947 by the departing British Raj, is what led the British to do it. Run-of-the-mill analysts point out that the British did not want a unified India which could be strong and anti-British. Some others say the British saw that the minority Muslims were in danger in the hands of the majority Hindus, and that that is why they moved in to form Pakistan. While the British did not want the emergence of a strong India, the formation of Pakistan hardly helped the Muslims, who felt that they were a threatened minority. To begin with, those provinces that became a part of Pakistan were those provinces where the Muslims were in majority. Hence, the Muslims there were not in danger. The provinces where Muslims were a minority, and ostensibly "in danger," became a part of the Hindu-majority India.
But the British objective in breaking up India was simply not to divvy up the country.
The British wanted two things out of it: 1) They wanted a weak nation (Pakistan, that is), which would depend on Britain for its defense. And 2) they wanted that newly-formed weak nation (aka PAKISTAN) to border the oil wells of Central Asia (part of the Soviet Union, then) and to be close to the Muslim-majority, oil-rich nations of the Middle East.
Corollary to the objective was that India, the larger of the two nations then in the subcontinent (now, with the emergence of Bangladesh in 1972, the subcontinent has three nations) must not have any common border with either Afghanistan (the buffer state) or the Soviet Union.Hence, Kashmir state must not go to India in its original form to INDIA and at best, status quo can be maintained.
The British objective to control the oil wells was part of the Great Game to prevent the mighty Russian empire from having access to the oil fields. Former British Governor of the NorthWest Frontier Province during the British Raj days, Olaf Caroe used to say the shadow of the north must not extend over the wells of power. Britain realized during World War II that the one who controls the oil fields controls the destiny of many nations. As a result, beginning 1940, south Asia was important to imperial Britain, for the protection of oil fields of Arabia. Nothing more, nothing less.