Saturday, February 16, 2013

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The first British invasion of Afghanistan in 1839 ended three years later in disaster . . .

“If you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains,

And the women come out to cut up the remains,

Just roll to your rifle and blow out your brains

And go to your God like a soldier.”

- Rudyard Kipling

At the end of Kim, Kipling has his eponymous hero say, “When everyone is dead, the Great Game is finished. Not before.” In the 1980s, it was the Russians’ withdrawal from their failed occupation of Afghanistan that triggered the beginning of the end of the Soviet Union. Less than 20 years later, in 2001, British and American troops arrived in Afghanistan, where they proceeded to begin losing what was, in Britain’s case, its fourth war in that country. As before, in the end, despite all the billions of dollars handed out, the training of an entire army of Afghan troops and the infinitely superior weaponry of the occupiers, the Afghan resistance succeeded again in first surrounding then propelling the hated Kafirs into a humiliating exit.

William Dalrymple draws parallels with the current campaign in his new book.


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