Afghan Biographies

Atmar, Hanif

Name Atmar, Hanif
Ethnic backgr. Pashtun
Date of birth 1968
Function/Grade Presidential Candidate 2019 (dropped out)
History and Biodata

2.Previous Functions
Advisor for humanitarian programs in aid agencies in Afghanistan and in Pakistan (1992-1994)
Program Manager for the Norwegian Committee for Afghanistan (1994-2000)
Deputy Director General of the International Rescue Committee,
Minister of Rural Rehabilitation and Development in the Transitional Government (2002-2008)
Minister of Education (until October 2008)
Minister of Interior (2008)
Minister of Interior, second term, (20100102 - 20100606 resigned)
Chairman National Security Council NSC (20140930-20180825 resigned)

3. Biodata
atmar_hanifHanif Atmar, son of Mohammad Asef Atmar, was born in Laghman in 1968. (a different source said he hails from Kandahar) Atmar is a Durani Pashtun. He has a Bachelor's Degree in Rural Development Studies from United Kingdom, an a master's degree in Internation Relations and Post War Development from York University, also in U.K. He has credentials with the former communists because he was an KHAD intelligence officer in the Afghan-backed Soviet regime. He fought on communists’ side. In 1988, Atmar lost one of his legs fighting with a Khad special-operations unit against mujahedeen fighters besieging the eastern city of Jalalabad. When the mujahedeen captured Kabul, he joined an exodus of Communist-era officials and went to Britain. He walks with a cane. Yet his tribal credentials are impeccable. He hails from an aristocratic Pashtun family in Laghman province.

The Americans and Europeans like him because he is a technocrat. Atmar and Karzai had clashed in recent months over Karzai's reconciliation efforts, said a senior U.S. military official who worked closely with Atmar. "Atmar really disagreed with the reintegration of the Taliban into the police and the army," the official said. After the Taliban attack on the Peace Jirga June 2010 he resigned.


Hanif Atmar fears Afghanistan may plunge into civil conflict if international forces pull out of the country on schedule in 2014.(20111118)


Weesa Daily reported that a reliable source told Kabul News that a Dubai based US contractor company had close ties with Hanif Atmar and gives the Right and Justice party US$ 50,000 to 60,000 on a monthly basis. It is said that the company has signed a US$ 10 billion contract with Pentagon to supply logistics for the US forces in Afghanistan.(20130506)

The long-awaited security agreement was inked by US ambassador to Afghanistan James B. Cunningham and national security adviser Hanif Atmar.(20140930)

While President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai's  camp might not have as strong an interest as Abdullah’s in electoral reforms, amending the constitution and the division of power between central and local authorities was part of his electoral mandate. It is said for that, he should remove from his inner circle those who try to ‘sabotage the process,’ including his National Security Advisor, Hanif Atmar, who has monopolized decision making at the Palace.(20160420)


National security adviser Atmar said he resigned because of “serious differences over policies and principles with government leadership”. Different sources said Atmar had argued with President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai after warning that Ghazni, which sits on the main route linking Kabul to southern Afghanistan, needed to be reinforced and that the highway in particular was vulnerable. They said Ghani had told him to draw up a proposal before additional troops were deployed, frustrating Atmar, who wanted to move immediately. (20180902)

Reports suggest, former National Security Advisor Mohammad Hanif Atmar will also run for the Preseidential election in April 2019 and Yunus Qanoni will be as his first deputy in his election ticket.(20181111)

The former National Security Adviser Mohammad Atmar has confirmed that he will seek nomination for presidential in next year’s presidential elections.(20181129) Atmar, once considered the second-most powerful official in Ghani's government, will be running against his former boss, who is seeking reelection in the April 20 vote.

Former national security adviser Mohammad Hanif Atmar is said to run as a candidate in Presidential Election 2019 with First Deputy: Qanooni; and Second Deputy: Muhaqqiq. (20190107)

he Paiwande Milli Party (Hezb-e-Paiwande Milli) led by Alhaj Syed Mansoor Naderi has announced all-out support to Mohammad Haneef Atmar in the upcoming presidential elections.(20190122)

Mohammad Hanif Atmar announced opting out of the September 28, 2019 presidential vote, saying he would not join any electoral team.(20190924)

Hanif Atmar speaks Dari, Pushtu, English and Urdu.

More Background on Hanif Atmar:


As Afghanistan’s national security adviser, Mohammad Haneef Atmar signed the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the United States, negotiated a peace agreement with Hizb-e-Islami Group (HIG), kept a fragile regional consensus on Afghan war and peace intact until his departure, and undertook major reforms in the Afghan security sector. He ran for the highest office in Afghanistan, challenging his former ally, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, for the presidency.

Ghani, increasingly paranoid and isolated, has become a divisive personality both at home and abroad. The Afghan political elite do not trust him, his former allies have left his side, and the region increasingly views him as a puppet — too westernized, removed from the Afghan realities, and distanced from its people.

Atmar, a British-educated former spy turned humanitarian worker and politician, is one of the most formidable figures to challenge the incumbent Ghani in the upcoming presidential election. The late Richard Holbrooke once dubbed Atmar as the next president of Afghanistan, and most of the European and American generals who worked with him over the years considered him as a man to count on during a crisis. He was the go-to man for many in the international community and the region on issues ranging from women’s rights to building regional and global consensus on the Afghan peace process.

In one telling episode, a former European ambassador burst out of a meeting with the Afghan president, terming it a repetitive lecture with no end in sight. The frustrated diplomat instead heading next door to meet Atmar for consultations on an important European agreement to fund the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF). The ambassador was frustrated by the lack of results from Ghani; Atmar, he knew, would carefully take notes and get back to him with progress in a few days. Such was the reputation of Atmar in the National Unity Government.

Prior to his role as the national security advisor of Afghanistan, Atmar was a successful businessman and the head of a major political party, the Rights and Justice Party, which gathered moderate and Western-educated Afghans to advocate for the political and human rights of all Afghans. Former U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry called Atmar’s party one of the most progressive parties of post 9/11 Afghanistan. Meanwhile, his business, Hambastagi Co., was flourishing with a portfolio of projects amounting to millions of dollars and employing hundreds of Afghans and dozens of foreigners.

Atmar also had a long and distinguished career in the Afghan humanitarian and development community as well. He headed several NGOs such as the International Rescue Committee and Norwegian Church Aid during the reign of the Taliban and traveled across Afghanistan to deliver humanitarian aid and development projects. Many of his colleagues even then regarded him as a broker, negotiator, and excellent project manager who enjoyed the trust of Afghans and donors. He is a man who has seen many faces and many chapters of Afghanistan; today he wants to put that experience and knowledge in use in the Afghan presidency.

Atmar brings to bear some unique qualities in this race: unity, pluralism, inclusivity, and above all a desire for broad-based change and reform in the culture of politics in Afghanistan. During his time in office, Atmar served as the unifier, firefighter, and glue holding the fragile and shaky National Unity Government together. For days on end, he would shuttle between the office of the president and the office of the chief executive to settle their differences and call for unity. His shuttle diplomacy did not end within the Afghan government but also extended throughout the region. He was often traveling to the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Iran, and Central Asian states to urge them to cooperate rather than compete in the Afghan war and peace theater, present confidence building measures, and listen to and address their concerns.

Atmar hails from Kandahar and speaks Kandahari Pashtu with a thick accent. The same region is the birthplace of the Afghan Taliban, a factor that goes a long way in the complicated web of Afghan tribal politics. He is well-known to the Afghan Taliban since his days as a humanitarian worker and subsequently during his many assignments in former President Hamid Karzai’s cabinet, where he kept channels open with the Afghan Taliban for negotiations. When Karzai invited Taliban negotiators, messengers, and leaders for negotiations in Kabul, they often ended up meeting Atmar for advice and assistance. Today, the United States and the West need such a man with Atmar’s skill set and proven track record to allow for a graceful exit by American forces, forge a regional consensus and negotiate a peace deal with the Afghan Taliban, and pave the way for a peaceful and stable Afghanistan.



Last Modified 2020-01-24
Established 2009-10-08