9:00pm Monday 28 May on BBC TWO
Afghanistan: one of the most isolated and barren landscapes on earth is a strange place for an Empire or Superpower to invade. But for three of the greatest powers the world has seen, it became an unlikely target and an enduring obsession.
The 19th century British invasions into Afghanistan, immortalised by Rudyard Kipling as ‘The Great Game’, ended in huge loss of life and British retreat, and set a template for the perils of incursion in this mountainous country.
In this two-part series, author, journalist and former Deputy Governor during the coalition’s occupation of Iraq, Rory Stewart MP travels to Afghanistan to uncover the fears, the paranoia and perceived threats that led three very different Superpowers: Britain, Russia and the United States into Afghanistan from the 19th century to the present day.
In this first film, Rory tells the story of the decision-making that led to the first British invasion of Afghanistan, and the three Anglo-Afghan wars fought in this era. He reveals Afghanistan’s unlikely reaction to this period and an Afghan-elite’s futile attempt to impose western-inspired ideas and modernity on the country.
As Rory meets with historians and academics worldwide, as well as Afghan royalty to discuss the invasions, he introduces a deeply personal and intriguing view into the role Afghanistan has played in power politics throughout modern history.