View of the descent from Khurd Khyber looking towards Bassaule.
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.The Khurd Khyber Pass is a defile in the Khurd range of mountains in the Jalalabad district of Afghanistan, which was described thus in the Gazetteer of Afghanistan, part IV, p.299, Calcutta, 1910, 'It is very narrow, in some places not admitting of two horsemen riding abreast, and about three-quarters of a mile long. It is merely a deep, narrow ravine with high banks in some parts. The road through it is good, and the descent in it is not difficult, but an enemy occupying the heights could stop the advance of any force till they were dislodged'.