Born in 1968 in Laghman, eastern Afghanistan, Mohammad Haneef Atmar is an Afghan politician and one of Afghanistan’s most senior government leaders since the creation of the post-Taliban democratic government in 2001.
In April 2020, he was designated as Minister of Foreign Affairs, his fifth ministerial posting, where he currently serves as Acting Foreign Minister awaiting parliamentary confirmation. Previously, he has served as National Security Advisor (2014-18), Minister of Interior (2008-10), Minister of Education (2006-08) and Minister of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (2002-06).
Mr. Atmar is credited with major reforms and public service delivery achievements. As President Ghani’s National Security Advisor, Mr. Atmar reformed the National Security Council to lead effective inter-agency policy formulation and coordination processes. This lead to better decision making in matters relating to national security. Among his main achievements, he led government efforts to strengthen the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF). Atmar promoted regional cooperation with a focus on security and counter-terrorism and led the negotiation of a successful peace agreement between the Afghan Government and Hezb-e-Islami, a major anti-government armed faction.
As Minister of the Interior, Mr. Atmar undertook major reform and development of the Afghan National Police to provide law and order and security services. At the Ministry of Education, he oversaw the launching of Afghanistan’s National Education Strategic Plan, producing significant results in education expansion and quality improvement across the nation. This saw remarkable gains for girls and women. As Minister of Rural Development, Mr. Atmar designed and implemented the National Solidary Programme (NSP), Afghanistan’s largest public investment initiative in history, with a focus on rural poverty reduction. Meanwhile, Mr. Atmar served as member of the Presidential Oversight Committee under President Karzai, where he played a key role in formulation of the first Afghanistan National Development Strategy in 2007-8.
Alongside his government career, Mr. Atmar has played an active role in Afghanistan’s modern political life, pioneering the participation of a new generation of technocratic leaders in Afghan politics. He founded the Rights and Justice Political Party in 2010. Here, Mr. Atmar ran an energetic, nation-wide campaign in the 2019 Presidential Elections, before withdrawing from the final race in the interest of focusing on the nascent Afghan peace process.
During the 1990s, Mr. Atmar was as an aid worker holding senior positions with various national and international non-governmental organizations. A major part of his experience of working with communities across Afghanistan comes from this crucial part of his early career.
Mr. Atmar holds a master’s degree in Public Policy and Post-war Development Studies from the University of York, UK, and has published several academic works on the role of humanitarian aid in Afghanistan.
Atmar is married and has two children. He speaks Dari, Pashto and English.