Over the last decade, Afghanistan has served as the testing ground for a range of whole-of-government (WoG) approaches to international intervention in crisis situations. Examining the WoG approaches of four countries – the USA, the UK, Germany and Norway – we find that the concept has been used to connote widely different practices. There is considerable tension between efforts by individual external actors to coordinate their own activities and the goal of building effective coordination for Afghanistan. Furthermore, balanced interaction between various actors is an illusion in a situation of massive international military engagement and severe insecurity. When the level of uncertainty is as high as in Afghanistan, we are better served by replacing the lofty ambition of strategic integration with the more modest aim of coordination at the operational level.