Post-war reconstruction has become a dominant feature of Western political discourse and a key policy concern since the 1990s. While there is an acute need for informed debate between political scientists and practitioners engaged in such activity, this requirement is often ignored. From a practical perspective, most post-war reconstruction initiatives have, in recent years, been mired by lack of donor support or by no reduction in the dangers that were present prior to the outbreak of violence. Using Afghanistan as a case study, this article seeks primarily to advance policy thinking on what has become known in the literature as 'state building'. Based on a theoretical and empirical examination, it attempts to assess the political future of Afghanistan following international involvement in the country over the past year. Most importantly, it highlights that the reconstruction of Afghanistan is dependent on developing a new political culture and a new way of thinking among the citizenry that ranks compromise over con?ict. More generally, the paper concludes that contemporary approaches to post-war reconstruction have been depressingly limited in their results.