(1880 - 1901) Amir Dost Mohammad Khan carefully selected his third son, Sher Ali Khan, to succeed him, and earnestly enjoined his other sons to serve him faithfully, but, as in the past, only a few acquiesced, with reluctance, and the others openly challenged him. All the familiar disruptive patterns now reappear with- the same devastating con-sequences: brother fought against brother; uncle against nephew, tribe against tribe. Herat held out against Kabul while the Khan-ates in the north happily resumed their play, one against the other. Beyond the borders outsiders kept the rivalries boiling. In short, between 1863 and 1880, Amir Sher Ali won and lost the throne twice (1863-1866; 1868-1879) and Russian-British hostility again brought a British army on to Afghan soil. Despite the internal dissensions and connivance of his neighbors, Amir Sher Ali was still able to pursue an energetic series of re-forms. He created a national army, laid the ground-work for col-lecting land taxes, began the Afghan postal system, and published Afghanistan's first newspaper. Forces gathered against him.As the year 1878 drew to a close the sudden, uninvited arrival of a Russian Mission in Kabul precipitated the final calamitous events. Irritated when they were refused permission to send a similar mission, the British marched their troops to Jalalabad, into Khost, to Kandahar and up to Kalat-i-Ghilzai; and the Second Anglo-Afghan War began. Ringed by enemy forces, Amir Sher Ali went north seeking promised Russian aid which failed to materialize and he died, disheartened, in Mazar-i-Sharif in February, 1879. His son, Amir Yaqub Khan, then travelled to meet with the British at Gandamak, west of Jalalabad, in May, and there signed a treaty which secured for the British their long sought after permission to station a British Representative in Kabul. The treaty further stated that the Amirs of Afghanistan agreed to "henceforth conduct all relations with foreign states in accordance with the advice and wishes of the British Government."Thus the British endeavored to control without actually annex-ing their prickly neighbor but less than three months later the Afghans protested this renewed British interference in their affairs by killing the newly arrived Representative and all but a few of his escort in their residence inside the Bala Hissar of Kabul. The massacre took place on September 3rd, 1879. This gave the British the pretext to bring their armies immediately to occupy Kabul (October) and, after the abdication of Amir Yaqub Khan, to as-sume direct control of the government of Kabul. General Roberts was in charge.
Amir Abdur Rahman Khan with an impressive personality and a curious Afghan humour, ruled Afghanistan (1880-1901)
The country was restless and numerous engagements were launched all over the country to show their disapproval of the British presence. The British on their part desperately searched for a leader acceptable to all. It was then that Abdur Rahman rode into Afghanistan from eleven years of exile in Samarkand as a guest of the Russian Government. His talents as a strong energetic tribal leader were well known for he had fought successfully to place his father, Amir Mohammad Afzal, an elder half-brother of Amir Sher Ali, on the throne in 1866. Even when his father died a year later, Abdur Rahman continued to serve the new Amir, his uncle, Mohammad Azam, until defeat at the hands of Amir Sher Ali forced him into exile in Russia in 1868.
Sensing a propitious moment to bid for the throne, Abdur Rahman crossed over the border into Badakhshan, gathering forces as he moved south from Kishm to Charikar where, on July 20th, 1880, a tribal council proclaimed him Amir of Kabul. On August 11th, the British formally handed over to him the Kingdom of Kabul and withdrew to India.
British composure at Kabul was severely shattered, however, by distressing news from Kandahar. On July 27th an entire British brigade had been outfought on the plains of Maiwand in one of the most crushing defeats ever suffered by a British army. The mortifying blow had been inflicted by Sardar Ayub Khan, son of Amir Sher Ali and full brother of Amir Yaqub Khan, who had declared himself Amir at Herat after hearing of his brother's abdication. Following up his victory at Maiwand, Ayub Khan invested Kandahar.
Swiftly mobilizing 10,000 picked men and 9000 animals, General Roberts marched from Kabul to the relief of Kandahar. Moving entirely on foot, with no wheeled transport to slow their progress, procuring supplies as they went, except for such essentials as tea, sugar, salt, rum and two hundred gallons of lime juice, they covered the 324 miles through hostile burning deserts with incredible speed and arrived in Kandahar, only 23 days later, on the 31st of August, 1880. Military strategists write with admiration of this difficult feat but the diaries of the men involved reveal some interesting attitudes. Just before arriving at Ghazni, for instance, Major Ashe writes: " . . . our march up to the present time has been a veri-table picnic, not unaccompanied by a rubber of whist in the after-noon, and not divested of that little duck and quail slaughter which in measure consoles our youngsters for their banishment from Hurlingham.
Arriving in Kandahar tired but in good spirits, the Kabul troops were shocked at the demoralized state of the Kandahar garrison. Undaunted, they went out the very next day to defeat Ayub Khan behind the Baba Wali Pass, to the north of the city.
In seeking arrangements which would secure for Britain if not a pro-British at least not an anti-British buffer against Russia, British policy makers contemplated giving Herat to Persia and establishing Kandahar as an independent state under another Sadozai puppet. Fortunately, these proposals were vetoed and the last British troops on Afghan soil marched from Kandahar in April, 1881.
Amir Abdur Rahman in Kabul was left to become master of his own state. He faced monumental problems of divisiveness as he candidly admits in his autobiography." . . . when I first succeeded to the throne of Kabul my life was not a bed of roses. Here began my first severe fight against my own relations, my own subjects, my own people."
Rebellions began immediately and continued to erupt to the east in the Kunar, in the north around Maimana, and in the central mountains of the Hazarajat. The Ghilzai uprising alone took two years to subdue. The Amir defeated his tribal opponents on the battlefield and then, in order to insure their fealty, resettled many of the leaders in areas far from their homelands thereby cleverly exploiting age-old traditional tribal rivalries. As he rightly surmised, the Pushtun tribesmen would fight for him, a fellow Pashtun, before they would join with the Uzbaks. In this way he created a loyal force of his enemies.
In addition to the tribal wars the sorely beset Amir had more-over to fight one cousin, Sardar Ayub Khan, for Kandahar and Herat (1881) and another cousin, Mohammad Is'hak for the North (1888). Finally, in 1895 when all was relatively quiescent, he moved to conquer and convert the Kafirs, "Infidels," a warlike people living in the eastern mountains to the north of Jalalabad. The Kafirs had at one time impressed Alexander the Great who in-vited their young men to accompany him on his campaign to India. Later they had withstood the iconoclastic advances of Arab and Ghaznavid armies. They had even bested the august Tamer-lane, but now at last they submitted and the Amir decreed that henceforth their land was to be known as Nuristan, Land of Light.
While the Amir proceeded thus to establish his rule supreme within his own domains, foreigners hemmed him in with bound-aries: a joint Russian-British Boundary Commission settled the northern boundary in 1887; the unpopular western boundary demarcated during the reign of Amir Sher Ali, was renegotiated in 1888; the British drew the equally unpopular Durand Line in 1893 to separate Afghanistan from their Indian Empire.
Mutual mistrust, especially after March, 1885 when Russian troops took the Afghan fort of Panjdeh north of Herat, led to the acceptance of Afghanistan as a buffer state. For strength and protection against further Russian advances the Amir also accepted subsidies from the British in return for which they continued to control his foreign affairs.
The Amir insisted, however, on preserving the independence of Afghanistan by maintaining absolute control over internal affairs. Though the British resented the Amir's policy of isolation and bombarded him with proposals regarding advisçrs, telegraphs and railroads, commercial treaties and diplomatic missions, the Amir proved adamant, preferring to develop his country on his own. He built small forts along all major caravan routes to make ona hazardous travel safe, and trade flourished. He introduced fac-tories, schools and hospitals for which he did hire, on his own several British technicians and a doctor, but only a select few. A' the capital he built a new citadel to replace the palaces in the Bal~ Hissar, a heap of rubble since the days of the British occupation their vengeful "lesson" to Kabul. Zarnegar Park in the heart o Kabul once formed part of the Amir's palace grounds, a come: where he and his favorite young wife, Bibi Halima, had adjoinin~ bungalows. Hers, richly decorated with stucco omnamention depict ing birds entwined within flowering vines, is Central Asian ii design and recalls the years he spent there.
The Amir's bungalow became his mausoleum and was sub sequently topped with a dome and minarets to make it an impres sive structure in keeping with this dynamic personality who domi nated the period from which modern Afghanistan emerges.