Wednesday 10 June 2015

Time-travel through pictures

This location is not to be found on the Time Trap Trail, (obviously) but the place is featured in the book, and has an interesting history.


Sketch of the Bolan Pass, taken from Time Trap

10th March 1839

The invasion of Afghanistan begins. Under the command of Lieutenant-General John Keane, we head for Kandahar through the Bolan Pass, a huge chasm, running between preciptitous rocks for 70 miles. The invasion force stretches for miles, a vast, unwieldy column of soldiers, beasts and wagons.

24th November 1841

We counter-attack and retrieve the gun. I was knocked down by a blow on the head from an Afghan knife, which would have done for me had I not put a few pages of Blackwood’s Magazine in my forage cap. I could feel the blood running down my back as I got up, half-stunned. Seeing that a second blow was coming, I met it with the edge of my sword and removed my assailant’s hand. He bolted, but another slashed my shoulder with his sword. As my sword met his following strike, he was shot by an officer. I, too, was fired at; the shot hit my sword, breaking it in two, leaving six inches or so on the handle. I see Hector take a bullet in the lower back and go to his side as the men disperse and retreat. I pray Hector will live when we make it back to the cantonment.

Colonel Ramsbottom's journal - Time Trap

Image result for pictures of bolan pass afghanistan

The Bolan Pass today

The history of Afghanistan is a troubled and turbulent one, but also a fascinating one, which has seen much conflict over the centuries, from within, by its numerous tribal factions, and by foreign invaders, going back as far as 3000 BC. It's been used as a battleground for strategic wars by larger external powers, due to its geographic position between the Middle East, Central and South Asia.

I'm not going to write about every era of conflict, as there are so many, but provide a flavour.

Afghanistan became part of the Achaemenid Empire (550 - 330 BC) after it was conquered by Darius I of Persia. The area was divided into several provinces called Satrapies, which were ruled by a governor, or Satrap.

Alexandra the Great arrived in the area of Afghanistan in 330 BC. His army faced very strong resistance in the Afghan tribal areas where he is to have commented that Afghanistan is "easy to march into, hard to march out of." How many generals have repeated that, since?

An Islamic influence came when Rashidun Arabs conquered most of west Asia in 642 CE. They introduced the religion of Islam as they entered new cities. The early Arab forces did not fully explore Afghanistan due to attacks by mountain tribes.

From the 16th to the 17th century CE, Afghanistan was divided into three areas. The north was ruled by the Khanate of Bukhara, the west was under the rule of the Iranian Shia Safavids, and the eastern section was under the Sunni Mughats of northern India.

British influence began in the 19th century when the Russian Empire became a threat to West Asia and British India. This stand-off with Russia became known as "The Great Game."

The first Anglo-Afghan War, (1837-1842) which Hector Lightfoot from Time Trap, served as a captain, resulted in the defeat of the British Army; it is remembered by first-hand account as an example of the ferocity of Afghan resistance to foreign rule. The Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878 - 1880) was sparked by Shir Ali's refusal to accept a British mission in Kabul. This conflict brought Amir Abdor Rahman to the Afghan throne. It was during his reign (1880-1901) the British and Russians officially established the boundaries of which would become modern Afghanistan.

The Russians feature in Afghan history again, when the Saur Revolution overthrew the existing government in 1978 and implemented a Socialist agenda. Led by Hafizullah Amin and the military of the Khalq party, the agenda included a move to state atheism and introduced land reforms. The Mujadedeen loosely-aligned opposition forces, made up of groups of mostly Pashtun tribesmen, began attacks aimed at overthrowing the Marxist-Leninist government. The ruling party in turn requested the support of the Soviet Union in fighting the Mujahedeen. In December 1979, a massive initial deployment of 100,000 Red Army troops went into Afghanistan. The US saw this as a prime opportunity to weaken the Soviet Union as part of its Cold War strategy, and they began to provide training and arms to the Mujahedeen resistance groups, along with extra support from other countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UK. In 1989, the Soviet Union left Afghanistan, (leaving the Taliban to eventually take over the country) adding to the many other defeated armies to have invaded there.

So, with all this evidence of armies failing to defeat the Afghan tribesmen throughout history and a lot more I haven't mentioned, in 2001, George W Bush went into Afghanistan, known as: Operation Enduring Freedom (without an exit plan) with Tony Blair providing military support, where a long and bloody campaign ensued. To my mind, the conflict didn't achieve anything, and the tribal groups are still in force. The allied occupation ended in 2014.


Taliban fighters.

No comments: