CHAPTER III: THE FIRST YEAR OF OCCUPATION
Sir John Kaye, in his picturesque if diffuse history of the first Afghan war, lays it down that, in seating Shah Soojah on the Cabul throne, 'the British Government had done all that it had undertaken to do,' and Durand argues that, having accomplished this, 'the British army could have then been withdrawn with the honour and fame of entire success.' The facts apparently do not justify the reasoning of either writer. In the Simla manifesto, in which Lord Auckland embodied the rationale of his policy, he expressed the confident hope 'that the Shah will be speedily replaced on his throne by his own subjects and adherents, and when once he shall be received in power, and the independence and integrity of Afghanistan established, the British army will be withdrawn.' The Shah had been indeed restored to his throne, but by British bayonets, not by 'his own subjects and adherents.' It could not seriously be maintained that he was secure in power, or that the independence and integrity of Afghanistan were established when British troops were holding Candahar, Ghuznee and Cabul, the only three positions where the Shah was nominally paramount, when the fugitive Dost was still within its borders, when intrigue and disaffection were seething in every valley and on every hill-side, and when the principality of Herat maintained a contemptuous independence. Macnaghten might avow himself convinced of the popularity of the Shah, and believe or strive to believe that the Afghans had received the puppet king `with feelings nearly amounting to adoration,' but he did not venture to support the conviction he avowed by advocating that the Shah should be abandoned to his adoring subjects. Lord Auckland's policy was gravely and radically erroneous, but it had a definite object, and that object certainly was not a futile march to Cabul and back, dropping incidentally by the wayside the aspirant to a throne whom he had himself put forward, and leaving him to take his chance among a truculent and adverse population. Thus early, in all probability, Lord Auckland was disillusioned of the expectation that the effective restoration of Shah Soojah would be of light and easy accomplishment, but at least he could not afford to have the enterprise a coup manque when as yet it was little beyond its inception.
The cost of the expedition was already, however, a strain, and the troops engaged in it were needed in India. Lord Auckland intimated to Macnaghten his expectation that a strong brigade would suffice to hold Afghanistan in conjunction with the Shah's contingent, and his desire that the rest of the army of the Indus should at once return to India. Macnaghten, on the other hand, in spite of his avowal of the Shah's popularity, was anxious to retain in Afghanistan a large body of troops. He meditated strange enterprises, and proposed that Keane should support his project of sending a force toward Bokhara to give check to a Russian column which Pottinger at Herat had heard was assembling at Orenburg, with Khiva for its objective. Keane derided the proposal, and Macnaghten reluctantly abandoned it, but he demanded of Lord Auckland with success, the retention in Afghanistan of the Bengal division of the army. In the middle of September General Willshire marched with the Bombay column, with orders, on his way to the Indus to pay a hostile visit to Khelat, and punish its khan for the 'disloyalty' with which he had been charged, a commission which the British officer fulfilled with a skill and thoroughness that could be admired with less reservation had the aggression on the gallant Mehrab been less wanton. A month later Keane started for India by the Khyber route, which Wade had opened without serious resistance when in August and September he escorted through the passes Prince Timour, Shah Soojah's heir-apparent. During the temporary absence of Cotton, who accompanied Keane, Nott had the command at Candahar, Sale at and about Cabul, and the troops were quartered in those capitals, and in Jellalabad, Ghuznee, Charikar and Bamian. The Shah and the Envoy wintered in the milder climate of Jellalabad, and Burnes was in political charge of the capital and its vicinity.