For obvious reasons, the idea of introducing democracy to a country by excluding its society from all relevant decision-making processes seems absurd. So does the idea of building a state by taking over its responsibilities. Nevertheless, this is exactly what has been happening in Afghanistan over the last years. Not, as I claim, because of corrupt or colonial intentions on the part of international actors, but because it seemed the only possible way to move ahead with the reconstruction and statebuilding agenda at all. It is the concern of this study to describe and explain this paradox. The study divides into two parts. Part A provides detailed case studies on the practice of statebuilding in post-Taleban Afghanistan through an analysis of the aid infrastructure. Part B challenges the idea of statebuilding from three perspectives: (i) from a local perspective the statebuilding effort is analysed within the specific historic and socio-political context of Afghanistan; (ii) this is followed by a critical analysis of the ideological foundations of the statebuilding agenda; and (iii) the study looks at the organisational practice of statebuilding and in how far the political economy of aid can explain the failure of the international effort.