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
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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