A lot of information today. The inevitable blurring that occurs toward the end of the semester might account for the misconception that I’d already informed you of the Durand Line, which the Encyclopedia Britannica describes as a

boundary established in the Hindu Kush in 1893 running through the tribal lands between Afghanistan and British India, marking their respective spheres of influence; in modern times it has marked the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The acceptance of this line—which was named for Sir Mortimer Durand, who induced ‘Abdor Rahman Khan, amir of Afghanistan, to agree to a boundary—may be said to have settled the Indo-Afghan frontier problem for the rest of the British period.

After the British conquered the Punjab in 1849, they took over the ill-defined Sikh frontier to the west of the Indus River, leaving a belt of territory between them and the Afghans that was inhabited by various Pashtun tribes. Questions of administration and defense made this area a problem. Some of the British, members of the so-called stationary school, wanted to retire to the Indus; others, of the forward school, wanted to advance to a line from Kabul through Ghazni to Qandahar (Kandahar). The Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878–80) discredited the forward advocates, and the tribal area was divided into roughly equal spheres of influence. The British established their authority by indirect rule up to the Durand Line, at the cost of a number of tribal wars; the Afghans left their side untouched. In the mid-20th century the area on both sides of the line became the subject of a movement for Pashtun independence and establishment of an independent state of Pakhtunistan. In 1980 approximately 7.5 million Pashtuns were living in the area around the Durand Line.

There are three reasons why I raise that specific issue: as a means of enlarging the context for TRF, in order to demonstrate the incredible half-life of Empires, and by way of a gentle nudge encouraging all of you to inform yourselves of “Afpak” as the wizard’s apprentices of the MIC (full text of Ike’s address is here) now phrase it in an obvious effort to conflate Afghanistan with Pakistan. (Malcontent and Counterpuncher Chris Floyd has a pungent appraisal of this recent wordplay which I recommend.)

Any questions about Empire? Address them to this post and I will attempt to answer in a timely fashion this weekend.