This article explores the dynamics and implications of practices of protection enacted within the framework of the UN-sponsored International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. It examines the ways in which those practices challenge established categories in the field of security, and discusses the problems and dilemmas they generate. The article demonstrates that the role played by North Atlantic Treaty Organization - as the lead actor in ISAF - reflects the Alliance's reconceptualization of the relevant space of security. An analysis of security practices employed by ISAF in Afghanistan reveals that, in spite of statements that stress the unique situation of stabilization and reconstruction in Afghanistan, ISAF's dual emphasis on inclusion/exclusion (i.e. defeating radical Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters while also winning the hearts and minds of the other Afghans) echoes in interesting ways of colonial practices of counter-insurgency. Conceptually, one of the most interesting features of ISAF's security practices has been a blurring of multiple boundaries that have long been at the heart of thinking about international politics: domestic/international, military/policing and public/private actors. By shedding light on that process of blurring boundaries, this article provides further evidence in support of the claim made in this special issue: that we are now living in a world in which many of the distinctions that once appeared to be clearly defined and fairly rigid are fast breaking down. Abstract published by arrangement with Taylor and Francis.