HC Deb 26 August 1880 vol 256 cc91-2

asked the Secretary of State for India, Whether, at the time orders to advance were given to General Burrows, the Government of India had received information of the force in men and guns under the command of Ayoub Khan; whether the Government of India was at that time aware that the only force that could reinforce the garrison of Candahar, viz., that of General Phayre, could not undertake the march to Candahar, a distance of about 150 miles, without a month's previous preparation; and, whether any Papers can be laid upon the Table on the subject?


Sir, the information as to the approximate force under Ayoub Khan was communicated by Mr. Thompson, from Teheran, to the Governor General of India. No despatches have as yet been received in relation to the events which have occurred in the neighbourhood of Candahar; and we have in our possession up to the present time nothing but extremely meagre telegrams, the purport of which has already been communicated to Parliament. In the absence of these despatches, and of further information, it is impossible for me to state what was the exact state of the knowledge of the Indian Government at the time the orders were issued to General Burrows to advance. All that I do know is that the despatch of reinforcements to General Phayre was interrupted by the breaking of the railway at Sibi; and it was impossible, from the disturbed state of the country and the rising of the Tribes, for General Phayre to advance until he was in a position to do so in strength. No information has been received today from Candahar.



asked the Secretary of State for India, Whether, in view of the telegram which has appeared in the "Western Morning News," to the effect that Ayoub Khan has been largely reinforced, and that General Roberts is being greatly impeded on his forward march, the Government still adhere to their intention of withdrawing the British troops from Northern Afghanistan?


inquired, Whether the noble Lord or the Viceroy of India have any idea as to the number of the forces with which Ayoub Khan is besieging Candahar; whether they have heard that he might be reinforced and, whether it is intended to reinforce General Phayre, now proceeding to Candahar?


in reply, said, he had already intimated that the Government had received no news confirming the telegram referred to. The retirement of the forces from Northern Afghanistan was in progress, and he believed there was no reason to alter the determination which had initiated that course. Almost all the information from India had been laid before the House, or communicated to the public Press—all the information, at any rate, which the Government thought it would be of advantage to the Public Service to communicate. He had, therefore, nothing to add to what had been stated by the Government as to their knowledge of Ayoub Khan's forces, or as to the steps taken to reinforce the garrison of Candahar.