Not long after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, Francis Fukuyama was just a green 27-year-old researcher at the RAND Corporation, the military-focused think tank. His assignment? Gin up a strategy to counter Moscow’s aggression. Fresh from filing his dissertation on Soviet foreign policy at Harvard, he quickly faced the unsettling fact that Washington knew next to nothing about South Asia. So he picked up the phone.

“Next thing I know, the ISI was offering me a two-week tour of the North-West Frontier province,” Fukuyama recalls, referring to Pakistan’s intelligence service and the treacherous border the country shares with Afghanistan. The ambitious scholar jumped on a plane and was soon interviewing Afghan refugees and dining with soldiers at the Khyber Pass. As proof, there’s a grainy snapshot of Fukuyama, wearing a wide smile and a pair of hip sunglasses, eating a mango beside a Pakistani colonel. He drafted a report on his return, “just a little note,” he says, “arguing the U.S. should support the mujahedin.” Soon after, the Reagan administration was shipping F-16s to Pakistan. Fukuyama denies his analysis served as a catalyst. But New Delhi didn’t think so: “I became one of the most hated people in India,” he says.

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