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A Letter to the Times from August 16, 1880
(Republished in the Times of August 16, 2007)

That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons history has to teach us.

Herman Hupfeld

Sir, - I propose to state the arguments which appear to me to demonstrate not only that we should withdraw from Candahar at the earliest possible date, but from Quetta also, and from every other position in advance of the old Indian frontier as it was before Lord Lytton's ill-omened arrival in India.

The efficient underlying motive which took us to Afghanistan was the fear of a Russian invasion of India. Now surely it has been demonstrated by the events of the past eighteen months that for a quarter of a century at least Russia will not be in a position to advance even to the frontiers of Afghanistan on the Herat side.

But, in addition to this fact, what is the lesson to be gathered from our own experience in Afghanistan? We have at this moment a force of upwards of 55,000 men on service m Afghanistan. Are we, therefore, strong in Afghanistan? On the contrary, we are so weak that we have just encountered an ignominious defeat This large force has to be scattered over so vast an extent of country, its communications are so precarious and have to be defended with such care, that everywhere our troops are reduced to the defensive.

When so unquestionable an authority as Sir James Outram pronounces such a judgment on the impregnable character of the Indian frontier, it surely is needless to say a word further on the folly and inutility of placing a garrison in Candahar, or entangling ourselves in any way with the internal affairs of Afghanistan.

Yours obediently,


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