Shir 'Ali Khan

(b. 1825, Kabul?, Afg.--d. Feb. 21, 1879, Mazar-e-Sharif), emir of Afghanistan from 1863 to 1879 who tried with only limited success to maintain his nation's equilibrium in the great power struggles between Russia in the north and British India in the south.

The third son of Dost Mohammad Khan, Shir 'Ali succeeded to the throne upon his father's death. Only after a bewildering series of intra-family struggles, revolts, and civil war, however, was his hold on the throne secure.

Shir 'Ali attempted to maintain Afghanistan as a noninvolved buffer state in the continuing conflicts between Russia and Great Britain. The British finally concluded, however, that he was coming under Russian influence and created situations, both intentionally and unintentionally, that developed into the Second Afghan War (1878-81). The British executed a well-planned three-pronged drive into Afghanistan. Shir 'Ali tried to rally the tribes to his support with little success. He then placed his son Ya'qub Khan on the throne and fled toward Turkistan; he died during the journey. 


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