The growing confidence and freer communications which were the first results of the salutary influence effected by Lord Mayo's most successful treatment of the fickle Afghan, were at once nipped in the bud, and replaced by a sulky reserve which it was impossible to remove by any reasonable amount of conciliation or forbearance. Russian advances and intrigues, which Slier Ali had, since his return to Kabul from the Amballa interview, either rejected or played with at arm's length, were now courted and entered into with a freedom which was incompatible with his friendship with both parties, and directly menacing to that with the British.
At the time of Dost Muhammad's death the Afghan regular army was less than thirty thousand infantry, with perhaps a hundred guns and six or eight thousand cavalry. At the close of his reign, Sher Ali's army was more than sixty thousand disciplined infantry, with fully three hundred guns, and perhaps sixteen thousand cavalry It was a force five times greater than was needed for the home requirements of the country, and double the strength that the revenues of the country could support.
With this force at his command, Sher Ali felt himself strong, and fancied he could treat the great British Government, which had made him the Amir he was, with the indifference he might show to a petty state. Nay more, as his communications and relations with Russia increased and became more intimate, rumours floated about of a demand of a cession to the Kabul Government of the former Afghan possessions in India, which were now held by the British Government and formed part of the Indian Empire - down to Jhelam some reports said, and others down to Lahore itself.
The forbearance of the British Government, and their most earnest efforts to come to a satisfactory understanding with the Amir, were treated by Sher Ah with studied indifference and insulting delay, whilst access to his country from the side of India was rigidly closed to all but his own sub-jects, who came and went as if the two States were on the best of terms Meanwhile, Russia, being encouraged, was no way backward in responding with big promises and alluring pictures of the future And the proud and ignorant Sher All, after refusing to receive an English envoy at his court, filled the measure of his offences against the British Government by receiving a Russian mission at Kabul, entertaining them with marked honors and hospitality, and introducing them in public darbar to the principal nobles of the nation, summoned for the purpose from all parts of the kingdom.
Even this did not at ones turn the tables of British forbearance Yet another opportunity and time for reflection were to be allowed the obdurate Amir, and he was asked to receive a British Mission. The request was rejected in a very insulting manner, and then went forth the order for the British troops to invade Afghanistan. The Amir's forces at the Khybar and Pewar Passes were defeated with the loss of all their artillery and camps, and Sher Ali, with his Russian guests, quitting the capital, hurried across the Hindu Kush. Kabul, which the fugitive Amir had left in charge of Yacub, whom he had just liberated from prison, was at our mercy; but we did not exercise that mercy Instead of being so merciful as to march to Kabul, as we had done to Kandahar we were content to stop midway, not only in our road, but in our work as well. The Afghan, who was thoroughly cowed by the rapidity and brilliant character of the exploits of our armies at Kandahar, Pewar, and the Khybar, now plucked up courage in the very natural - however false it were - idea that we were afraid of him after all.
Yacub Khan came down to the British camp at Gandumak to be acknowledged as Amir, and make a treaty of peace, with this idea of our timidity uppermost in his mind His whole conduct whilst there proves that he did not consider himself or his country in our power He saw us eager for a peace and a treaty. He on his part was eager to get us out of his country and take up the role which his father, who died in his refuge at Mazari Sharif beyond the Hindu Kush whilst these operations were in course of prosecution, had left him to cany to completion. To him a treaty with the British, whilst the relations of the Kabul Government with Russia were still unbroken, was not the serious thing he should have understood it to be He had never been a friend of the British, his tendencies were on the other side. Though an intriguer, and ambitious from his youth up, he had never evinced any partiality for the British alliance And it was his hostility against his father, after the Amir's return from Amballa, that drove Slier Ali to make a close prisoner of him. It was out of prison that he came to Gandumak to sign a treaty with a subordinate British officer, and to get rid of us. He accepted our articles, even to the forgiving of his enemies, and to the reception in his capital of a British Embassy, but he had no intention to carry them out And this, as was at the time predicted, and in many instances openly stated by those of his sirdars in our interest, has now been proved, sadly to our cost - by the massacre in one day of our Envoy, his staff, and escort, to the number of one hundred and twenty-three souls - all within a stone's throw of his own palace, without the Amir so much as moving a finger to help his overwhelmed guests, fighting as they were for their lives like heroes of the Homeric period.