Politics, Asia - Pacific

Afghan president picks former foe as foreign minister

Seasoned politician Mohammad Hanif Atmar was once Ghani’s front man before parting ways ahead of 2019 presidential polls

Shadi Khan Saif   | 05.04.2020
Afghan president picks former foe as foreign minister

KABUL, Afghanistan

In a surprise move, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Saturday assigned his former rival candidate Mohammad Haneef Atmar as foreign minister.

As per the presidential decree, Haneef Atmar would serve as interim foreign minister until the parliament approves his nomination as per the Constitution.

“Mohammad Haneef Atmar is one of the country’s influential politicians who have served in the past two decades as minister for rural development, education, interior affairs and lastly as a national security adviser,” the decree said.

A year before running for the president in 2019 elections, Atmar resigned as Ghani’s national security adviser, citing disagreements at the top level.

As Ghani’s longstanding aide for years, Atmar was considered the second powerful man in the country. He was one of the presidential nominees but declined to run days before the voting.

The latest move comes on the heels of a political crisis in Afghanistan stemming from the electoral dispute. Ghani has offered to his main rival Abdullah Abdullah the protocol of vice president in a capacity as head of the High Peace Council, an offer not accepted so far.

The rift between Ghani and Abdullah has cost the country $1 billion in U.S. aid following a trip to Kabul by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last month.

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