|Author:Laxman Burdak, IFS (Retd.)|
Origin of name
Bala Hissar sits to the south of the modern city centre at the tail end of the Kuh-e-Sherdarwaza Mountain. Bala Hissar was originally divided into two parts: The lower fortress, containing the stables, barracks and three royal palaces, and the upper fortress (the actual fort with the name Bala Hissar) housing the armory and the dungeon of Kabul, known as the "Black Pit" (the Siyah Chal).
Bala Hissar was the site of some of the bloodiest fighting in Afghanistan during the 19th century when Afghanistan came into conflict with the invading British during the First Anglo-Afghan War (1838–1842) and Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878–1880). From 1839 onwards the British used it on and off as their barracks until the massacre of the British Mission by mutinous Afghan troops in 1879. It was damaged during the Second Anglo-Afghan War when the British Residency was burned down, then later when the armoury exploded. General Frederick Roberts had wanted to level the fortress completely, but in the end it was strengthened and fortified in the Spring of 1880, a few months before the British left Afghanistan..
When looking at the outer wall of the fortress, it is possible to see layers of building materials from years of destruction and re-fortification. The tanks and other war wreckage from the last 30 years are strewn about the top of the hillside. Much of the hillside is built up on tunnels and underground storage. Evidence of trenches from previous trench warfare encircles the upper most level of the hilltop, which is adorned with a rickety, stalwart Afghan flag.
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