Herat Campaign of 1862–63

The Herat Campaign of 1862–63 was a conflict between Herat and the Emirate of Afghanistan, from March 1862, when Sultan Jan captured Farah from the Muhammadzai Emirs[1] and continued through the 10-month long siege of Herat, ending on May 27, 1863, when the city fell to the Amir-i Kabir,[2][3][1][4] thus completing the unification of Afghanistan.

Herat Campaign of 1862–63
Part of Great Game, Campaigns of Dost Mohammad Khan
Herat from the Citadel.png
An 1863 Illustration of Herat as seen from the citadel, in the June 13 Edition of the Illustrated London News
DateMarch 1862 – May 27, 1863
Result Afghan Victory
Herat incorporated into the Emirate of Afghanistan
Principality of Herat

Emirate of Afghanistan
Jamshidi tribe

Supported by:
 British Empire
 East India Company
Commanders and leaders
Sultan Jan Amir-i Kabir
7,000 (March 1862) Unknown

Background and Causes of the WarEdit


Herat had been an independent state since 1818, after the Sadozais were expelled from Kabul and Kandahar by the Barakzais.[5][3][2][1] It had been a bone of contention between the Barakzais and Qajars for quite some time. Iran made dozens of attempts to conquer Herat (1807, 1811, 1814, 1817, 1818, 1821, 1833, 1837).[1] Eventually in early 1842, Kamran Shah, the last reigning Sadozai ruler of Herat, was deposed and brutally murdered by his vizier, Yar Mohammad Khan Alakozai.[1][2] He expanded the country towards the Chahar Wilayat, subdued the Aimaq tribes, and conquered Sistan. In 1851, Yar Mohammad Khan died after coming back from a campaign against Lash-Juwain.[6][2][1] Twelve days after his demise, Yar Mohammad Khan's incompetent[7] and weak[3] son, Sa'id Mohammad Khan was put on the throne.[2]

Sa'id Mohammad Khan was very unpopular among the people of Herat.[8] He had to rely more and more on Iranian aid just to stay in power. The Qandahar Sardars took advantage of this to attack Herat in 1852.

Emirate of AfghanistanEdit

Dost Mohammad Khan with his 3 sons

After the end of the First Anglo-Afghan War in 1842, Dost Mohammad Khan was now in a position to expand his state dramatically. This was in part due to the improving relationship between Dost Mohammad Khan and the British.[3][9][10] During his exile in Calcutta, he was treated warmly.

He took note of the technological superiority of the British and was convinced that constant wars with them would damage Afghanistan. Instead, Dost Mohammad would advocate for an alliance with the British as the only way to ensure the survival of the state.[9][10] With the First and Second Anglo-Sikh Wars eliminating any threat that the volatile Sikh Empire would have had on Afghanistan, Dost Mohammad Khan was now able to freely expand his kingdom with the help of the British, realizing that he and British had common Central Asian goals.[9]

In 1843, Dost Mohammad Khan subdued the Hazarajat (Behsud, Dai Zangi, Dai Kundi) and Bamian, which had seized the power vacuum during the British invasion to become independent.[6][10][3] In 1846, a rebellion by the Kohistani Tajiks of Tagab was suppressed and Dost Mohammad was able to consolidate his position on that traditionally rebellious area.[6][10][3] In July 1848, he intended to send a force to conquer Balkh but the Second Anglo-Sikh War prevented this and occupied Dost Mohammad for another year.[9][3] The Sikhs proposed to cede Peshawar to the Afghans (although it never became a reality) and as a result, Mohammad sent 5,000 Afghans under Mohammad Akram Khan to aid the Sikhs in the war.[9][6][10] When the Sikhs were defeated and the British retook Peshawar, it was feared in Kabul that the British would follow up their victory by invading Afghanistan. However, this never happened and Dost Mohammad therefore invaded Balkh in the Spring of 1849.[9][3][10]

British InvolvementEdit

Dost Mohammad Khan was confident that the British would not intervene to save Herat.[8]

Iranian InvolvementEdit

Course of the WarEdit

Herati Conquest of FarahEdit

On March 11, 1862, Herati forces conquered the city of Farah in a battle where around 100 men on both sides were killed.[8] This was Sultan Ahmad Khan's biggest blunder, as it allowed Dost Mohammad Khan to have a cassus belli for an invasion of Herat. He believed that the Iranians backed Sultan Ahmad Khan's conquest of Farah, when in reality they never sanctioned such a move.[8]

Invasion of Dost Mohammad KhanEdit

On July 6, Dost Mohammad Khan's forces captured Farah. On July 19, Sabzawar was captured.[8]

Siege of HeratEdit




  1. ^ a b c d e f Noelle-Karimi, Christine (2014). The Pearl in Its Midst: Herat and the Mapping of Khurasan (15th-19th Centuries). Austrian Academy of Sciences Press. ISBN 978-3-7001-7202-4.
  2. ^ a b c d e Yusuf, Mohamed (1988). A History of Afghanistan, from 1793 A.D. to 1865 A.D. ISBN 1466222417.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Noelle, Christine (2012-06-25). State and Tribe in Nineteenth-Century Afghanistan: The Reign of Amir Dost Muhammad Khan (1826-1863). Routledge. ISBN 978-1-136-60317-4.
  4. ^ Balfour, Edward (1885). The Cyclopædia of India and of Eastern and Southern Asia, Commercial Industrial, and Scientific: Products of the Mineral, Vegetable, and Animal Kingdoms, Useful Arts and Manufactures. Bernard Quaritch.
  5. ^ Nelson, John (1976-05-01). "The Siege of Herat: 1837-1838". Culminating Projects in History.
  6. ^ a b c d McChesney, Robert; Khorrami, Mohammad Mehdi (2012-12-19). The History of Afghanistan (6 vol. set): Fayż Muḥammad Kātib Hazārah's Sirāj al-tawārīkh. BRILL. ISBN 978-90-04-23498-7.
  7. ^ Alder, G. J. (1974). "The Key to India?: Britain and the Herat Problem 1830-1863 - Part 1". Middle Eastern Studies. 10 (2): 186–209. doi:10.1080/00263207408700270. ISSN 0026-3206. JSTOR 4282525.
  8. ^ a b c d e "THE AFGHAN - IRANIAN CONFLICT OVER HERAT PROVINCE AND EUROPEAN INTERVENTION 1796 - 1863: A REINTERPRETATION - ProQuest". www.proquest.com. Retrieved 2021-09-15.
  9. ^ a b c d e f Lee, Jonathan L. (1996-01-01). The "Ancient Supremacy": Bukhara, Afghanistan and the Battle for Balkh, 1731-1901. BRILL. ISBN 978-90-04-10399-3.
  10. ^ a b c d e f Lee, Jonathan L. (2019-01-15). Afghanistan: A History from 1260 to the Present. Reaktion Books. ISBN 978-1-78914-010-1.