Interior of fort, Ali Musjid, looking towards Kuta-Kushta.
Photographer: Burke, John
Medium: Photographic print
With the spread of Russia's sphere of influence in Central Asia, British foreign policy in the 19th century was motivated by fears of their Indian Empire being vulnerable to Russian moves southwards. The Anglo-Russian rivalry in Asia, termed the Great Game, precipitated the Second Afghan War. The British were trying to establish a permanent mission at Kabul which the Amir Sher Ali, trying to keep a balance between the Russians and British, would not permit. The arrival of a Russian diplomatic mission in Kabul in 1878 increased British suspicions of Russian influence and ultimately led to them invading Afghanistan.
Ali Masjid fort at the centre of the Khyber Pass defends its narrowest point, the river gorge is flanked by precipitous cliffs and the fortress sits upon commanding heights. 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.