CHAPTER I: THE FIRST CAMPAIGN
A brief period of peace intervened between the ratification of the treaty of Gundamuk on May 30th, 1879, and the renewal of hostilities consequent on the massacre at Cabul of Sir Louis Cavagnari and the whole entourage of the mission of which he was the head. There was nothing identical or even similar in the motives of the two campaigns, and regarded purely on principle they might be regarded as two distinct wars, rather than as successive campaigns of one and the same war. But the interval between them was so short that the ink of the signatures to the treaty of Gundamuk may be said to have been scarcely dry when the murder of the British Envoy tore that document into bloody shreds; and it seems the simplest and most convenient method to designate the two years of hostilities from November 1878 to September 1880, as the 'second Afghan war,' notwithstanding the three months' interval of peace in the summer of 1879.
Dost Mahomed died in 1863, and after a long struggle his son Shere Ali possessed himself of the throne bequeathed to him by his father. The relations between Shere Ali and the successive Viceroys of India were friendly, although not close. The consistent aim of the British policy was to maintain Afghanistan in the position of a strong, friendly, and independent state, prepared in certain contingencies to co-operate in keeping at a distance foreign intrigue or aggression; and while this object was promoted by donations of money and arms, to abstain from interference in the internal affairs of the country, while according a friendly recognition to the successive occupants of its throne, without undertaking indefinite liabilities in their interest. The aim, in a word, was to utilise Afghanistan as a 'buffer' state between the northwestern frontier of British India and Russian advances from the direction of Central Asia. Shere Ali was never a very comfortable ally; he was of a saturnine and suspicious nature, and he seems also to have had an overweening sense of the value of the position of Afghanistan, interposed between two great powers profoundly jealous one of the other. He did not succeed with Lord Northbrook in an attempt to work on that Viceroy by playing off the bogey of Russian aggression; and as the consequence of this failure he allowed himself to display marked evidences of disaffected feeling. Cognisance was taken of this 'attitude of extreme reserve,' and early in 1876 Lord Lytton arrived in India charged with instructions to break away from the policy designated as that of 'masterly inactivity,' and to initiate a new basis of relations with Afghanistan and its Ameer.
Lord Lytton's instructions directed him to despatch without delay a mission to Cabul, whose errand would be to require of the Ameer the acceptance of a permanent Resident and free access to the frontier positions of Afghanistan on the part of British officers, who should have opportunity of conferring with the Ameer on matters of common interest with 'becoming attention to their friendly councils.' Those were demands notoriously obnoxious to the Afghan monarch and the Afghan people. Compliance with them involved sacrifice of independence, and the Afghan loathing of Feringhee officials in their midst had been fiercely evinced in the long bloody struggle and awful catastrophe recorded in earlier pages of this volume. Probably the Ameer, had he desired, would not have dared to concede such demands on any terms, no matter how full of advantage. But the terms which Lord Lytton was instructed to tender as an equivalent were strangely meagre. The Ameer was to receive a money gift, and a precarious stipend regarding which the new Viceroy was to 'deem it inconvenient to commit his government to any permanent pecuniary obligation.' The desiderated recognition of Abdoolah Jan as Shere Ali's successor was promised with the qualifying reservation that the promise 'did not imply or necessitate any intervention in the internal affairs of the state.' The guarantee against foreign aggression was vague and indefinite, and the Government of India reserved to itself entire 'freedom of judgment as to the character of circumstances involving the obligation of material support.'