The British 1842 Kabul Campaign
is an unusually interesting and well-written narrative and is
borrowed from James Morris "Heaven's Command". The book, written
in the 1960s, deal with the British Empire in general, and the
title does not refer to the 1842 Kabul campaign where "Hell's
Command" would be a more fitting title.
The British retreat from
Kabul started early January 1842 with 16,500 people, and ended
less than two weeks later, when the single survivor (!) reached
the British fortress in Jalalabad (towards today's Pakistan).
Only a fraction of the people were soldiers - about 500-600
redcoats and 3800 Indian sepoys, and these were not fully armed
as per agreement with the Afghan leader Akhbar.
As for the retreat from Kabul, though largely forgotten in Britain it is vividly remembered in Afghanistan: when in 1960 I [James Morris] followed the armys's route from Kabul to Jalalabad with an
Afghan companion, we found many people ready to point out the sites of the tragedy, and recall family exploits. I asked one patriarch what would happen now, if a foreign army invaded the country.
'The same' he hissed between the last of his teeth.
The Soviets invaded 19 years after this postscript and retreated 10 years later after suffering 10,000 dead.
US and NATO forces invaded late 2001 and face, 14 years later, increasingly fierce
resistance from a resurgent Taliban and a maze of other groups, bandits and opium traders.
In hindsight, the history of Afghanistan has in some ways repeated itself. The country can be invaded,
but not easily occupied and never conquered. Invaders have left with painful losses and few, if any gains.
The Pakistani city of Peshawar lies just south of the Khyber Pass. During the Soviet invasion it hosted hundre thousands of refugees from Afghanistan, and played a vital role
in supplying the mujahedeen with arms and other supplies. The people in this part of Pakistan is heavily armed, and there are many gun shops as well as backyard gun manufacturers.