Dost Mohammed

Dost Mohammed was the strong leader of Kabul who had been keen on reaquiring his old lands of Peshawar from his rival Ranjit Singh. Singh had already ingratiated himself with the British and when Dost Mohammed received no encouragement from the British he turned to the Russians and invited them to send a representative to Kabul for further talks. The British were concerned that the Russians might be making inroads in Persia and now in Afghanistan which would bring their influence up to the frontier with India. They therefore decided to replace Dost Mohammed with Shah Shujah who was already in their custody. Dost Mohammed surrendered to the British and was taken into comfortable custody himself. It was his son that led the revolt that crushed the British delegation and force in Kabul.

After the war, the British released Dost Mohammed who resumed his position in Kabul. He would later become a surprisingly strong bulwark for the British. He ensured a peaceful frontier for much of his reign. He did dabble in the post Ranjit Singh kingdom of the Sikhs but after their defeat he kept his kingdom out of trouble. This was particularly important to Britain during the Indian Mutiny when it was feared that the Afghans would take advantage of the chaos in the colony to swoop down and take territory from the British. Dost Mohammed ensured that no such course of action was followed. Its stability allowed the British to withdraw troops from the frontier to regain control of India proper.

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by Stephen Luscombe