Ali Musjid & surroundings, from left of enemy's position on Rotass, looking down on fort, showing ascent with river below.
Photographer: Burke, John
Medium: Photographic print
The Anglo-Russian rivalry (called the Great Game) precipitated the Second Afghan War. Afghanistan was of strategic importance to the British in the defence of their Indian Empire, and the prevention of the spreading influence of Russia. They favoured a Forward Policy of extending India's frontiers to the Hindu Kush and gaining control over Afghanistan. An opportunity presented itself when the Amir Sher Ali turned away a British mission while a Russian mission was visiting his court at Kabul. The British had demanded a permanent mission at Kabul which Sher Ali, trying to keep a balance between the Russians and British, would not permit.
British suspicions of the Amir's perceived susceptibility to the Russians led them to invade Afghanistan.
Of the three columns moving simultaneously into three approaches into Afghanistan, the Peshawar Valley Field Force, led by Lt. General Samuel Browne, was the largest. Its aim was to take the fort of Ali Masjid and thus the Khyber Pass. General Browne's tactic in attacking the vital fortress described as the 'key to the Pass' was to split his force into a further three columns. One advanced up the Khyber Valley, and the other two went up the parallel Lashora valley to occupy the heights above and behind the fortress of Ali Masjid and launch their attacks.