Monday, 29 November 2010

Long dark night in Kabul - November 2nd, 1841

The long, dreadful night continues. Insurrection has broken out...confusion is everywhere...and her son in law is dreadfully wounded. Lady Sale writes in place of her sleep...filling page after page.

"There were of course various reports. We first heard that, on the affair breaking out, Sir A Burnes went over to the Wuzeer's...and that he was safe there, excepting having been shot in the leg...The King, from the Bala Hissar, sent intelligence to the Envoy "that Burnes was all right;" but a few hours later acknowledged that he did not know anything of him, neither did the envoy at seven in the evening, when Capt Lawrence and Capt John Conolly came to enquire after Sturt's health."

We know, as I've written in previous posts, that Burnes and his brother were already dead.

She gets reflective towards the end of the night.

"It appears a very strange circumstance that troops were not immediately sent into the city to quell the affair in the commencement; but we seem to sit quietly with our hands folded and look on"

I think the truth is probably that the Brits realized without saying it, that they had bitten off a lot more in Afghanistan than they could chew. The cost cutting that provoked rebellion in the first place indicates that the powers that be did not want to throw good money after bad. The policy of regime change (as outlined in earlier posts) had been an unpopular failure in the country, where they now seen not only as Feringhee-(Franks..Crusaders) - occupiers...but worse, as being weak and anxious to leave. The expedition had been undertaken in haste, with poor intelligence, and insufficient resources. (Against the advice of experts, like the hero of my early posts, Alexander Burnes).

And now, a decision had already been tacitly taken to cut and run...Sale's regiment had left before Nott's had come to relieve them...the weakness had been seen and exploited by an enemy far stronger than anticipated...and the mission was doomed. The only question now was whether all the troops and their families were now doomed too.

All that was possible now, and far from certain, was getting out of there alive.

As I've said elsewhere, does not all this ring bells of conemporary resonance almost too obvious to be rung? Or, as Lady Sale puts it, still writing that same terrible night.

"Most dutifully do we appear to shut our eyes on our probable fate."

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