Reading two reports by Lieutenant Leech written between January and March 1838. The first, on Candahar, contains the interesting sentence:
“ Mehrab Khan will most likely receive the allegiance of more of the Baloch tribes than he already possesses, when Sinde shall have become subject to British control. ”
The second one, entitled “Report on the Sindhian, Khelat and Daoodputr Armies, with a Collection of Routes”, is a precise description of the future march of the Army of the Indus, the route it might take, the availability of supplies and transport and the opposition that might be faced.
The interesting thing is that historians have not viewed an invasion of Afghanistan as being on the table at the time Leech was writing these; the invasion of Sinde still less. Furthermore, Leech presupposes a route through the Bolan pass, a decision supposedly only taken nine months later due to Runjit Singh’s non-cooperation over Khyber. Finally, Leech was of course part of Alexander Burnes’ mission, which has generally been construed as trying to avert the invasion rather than prepare for it.
This is not the only evidence, but is amongst the evidence, that leads me to conclude that the decision to invade Afghanistan was taken in 1837, a year before the generally accepted date. This fits in with recent experience – Bush and Blair decided to invade Iraq at Crawford, a year before the ostensible decision of Cabinet and Parliament and necessitating all the jiggery-pokery of fixed legal opinions by Lord Goldsmith.
I suppose it was ever thus; the apparent and the actual in politics are clean different things.