Mohammad Hanif Atmar (Pashto: محمد حنیف اتمر; born 1968) was the Interior Minister of Afghanistan. He was removed from MOI by Hamid Karzai in

the wake of attacks on the June 2010 Afghan Peace Jirga. Before that he worked with several international humanitarian organizations and served as Minister of Rural Rehabilitation and Development and Minister of Education. In 2011, he is part of the Right and Justice party. During his time in office, he has visited several countries to get funding to stabilize Afghanistan. Atmar was serving as National Security Advisor to Ashraf Ghani the President of Afghanistan. He resigned from his post as there was disagreement with Ghani on certain issues. In late 2018, Atmar announced his candidacy for the April 2019 presidential elections, indicating he firmly believes a peace deal with the Taliban is possible.

Early life

Atmar was born in 1968 as son of Mohammad Asef Atmar in Laghman Province of Afghanistan. He is an ethnic Pashtun. As a young adult, he worked for the KHAD, an Afghan security and intelligence agency with strong ties to the Soviet KGB, including with a special-operations unit. During the Soviet-Afghan War he fought against Mujahids, and lost a leg defending Jalalabad in 1987. Atmar left for the United Kingdom after the fall of Kabul.

Studies and humanitarian work

In the UK he earned two degrees at the University of York: a diploma in Information Technology and Computers, and an M.A. in Public Policy, International Relations and Post-war Reconstruction studies, which he studied for from 1996 to 1997. He speaks fluent Pashto, Dari, English, and Urdu. In 1992 Atmar began advising on Afghanistan and Pakistan for humanitarian agencies, which he would continue for two years. Following that he went to the Norwegian Church Aid, where he served as Program Manager for six years until 2001. That same year he was hired as the Deputy Director General of the International Rescue Committee for Afghanistan, but after the September 11th attacks, the 2001 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, and the Bonn Agreement creating an Afghan Transitional Authority under Hamid Karzai, Atmar left to join the new government.

Political career

Minister of Rural Rehabilitation and Development

In 2002, Atmar was invited to join the Transitional Government as the Minister of Rural Rehabilitation & Development and was confirmed with the same portfolio in the cabinet of the newly elected President Karzai in December 2004. As one of the youngest members of cabinet and a technocrat, he directed his energies into transforming a dysfunctional and non-descript ministry into one of national significance that reached into every province of the country, overseeing an annual budget of nearly 500 million dollars at the end of his four-year tenure.

Ercan Murat, Country Director for UNDP in Afghanistan described Atmar in 2004 as a human development champion. As head of a ministry that was considered a key consumer of international funds, his task entailed providing food security for the rural population, safe drinking water, alternatives for the drug-economy and building the necessary infrastructure for the economy in rural areas to develop.

Minister of Education

In May 2006, Atmar was sworn in as the Minister of Education after being approved by an overwhelming majority of the National Assembly. As one of the very few who has served in successive cabinets under President Karzai, he went equipped with valuable institutional experience and memory to take on challenge of making available one of the most basic rights denied to a generation of Afghans – education.

Atmar with Afghan well-known poet, author-writer and Director of the ECAR Massoud Nawabi at the Education Ministry of Afghanistan in Kabul

As a member of the Presidential Oversight Committee, Atmar provides valuable advice and input into the development of the Afghanistan National Development Strategy and the represents government on the Joint Monitoring and Coordination Board that tracks the implementation of the Afghanistan Compact.

Minister of Interior

Atmar with U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and U.S. Navy Admiral Michael Mullen at the Pentagon in Washington, DC.

In October 2008, Atmar was sworn in as the Minister of Interior after being approved by a majority of the National Assembly.

Later career

When the Truth and Justice party was founded in 2011, he was a member of the party.


  • Development of Non-Governmental Organizations in Developing Countries
  • From rhetoric to reality: The role of aid in local peacebuilding in Afghanistan. York: University of York. 1998. (with Arne Strand and Sultan Barakat)
  • Humanitarian Aid, War and Peace in Afghanistan: What to Learn?
  • Politics and Humanitarian Aid in Afghanistan and its Aftermath for the People of Afghanistan
  • Afghanistan or a Stray War in Afghanistan.
  • The Challenge of Winning the Peace, chapter written together with Jonathan Goodhand. published in: Searching for Peace in Central and South Asia, 2002