Any who contemplate a military adventure in Afghanistan might first consider the British retreat from its capital, Kabul, in 1842. Of 700 British soldiers, 3800 sepoys — native troops — and 14,000 civilians who fled from Kabul in the winter of that year, only one survivor, a man riding an exhausted horse, made it to the British fort at Jalalabad to bring the dreadful news. Britain occupied Kabul in 1839 (300 camels were needed to carry in the wine), but as time passed the occupying force became less and less welcome until they were destroyed in retreat by the full fury of jihad — a new word to the world at that time. The war, which cost £50 billion in today’s money, achieved nothing — the king it had aimed to supplant, Dost Mohammad, returned to his throne.
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