Bismillah Khan Mohammadi was born in 1961 in the Panjshir Province of Afghanistan. An ethnic Tajik, he is the son of Ghausuddin of the Panjshir Valley. After graduating from 14th grade in Abu Hanifa Seminary he enrolled at Kabul Military University. Mohammadi was a former PDPA Parcham member, but after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan he aligned himself with mujahideen resistance commander Ahmad Shah Massoud.
When the Taliban gained control over large parts of Afghanistan in 1996 establishing their Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, Bismillah Khan served as Deputy Minister of Defense of the anti-Taliban and still recognized Islamic State of Afghanistan. He was a senior commander in the anti-Taliban resistance, the United Front (Northern Alliance), led by Ahmad Shah Massoud. After the attacks of September 11, 2001, and the subsequent fall of the Taliban regime through United Front ground troops and the U.S. Air Force, Bismillah Khan was appointed commander of Kabul's police force and became a member of the Kabul Security Commission. During that period the security situation in Kabul was better than in other parts of Afghanistan.
In 2002, Bismillah Khan became Chief of Staff of the Afghan National Army, a post he held until 2010.
In June 2010, Bismillah Khan was transferred from his position as Army Chief of Staff to the post of Interior Minister by President Hamid Karzai. As Interior Minister, Mohammadi has loudly deplored ethnic fractiousness within the Afghan security forces, and has called on Afghanistan's ethnic groups to come together in the interest of the country and Islam. By stressing national unity and Islamic ethics in the Afghan National Police, he may be able to get officers of different identities to work together, discourage them from pilfering supplies, and convince them to prevent their men from robbing and beating civilians, as he was at times able to do in the Afghan National Army.
Mohammadi is committed to base police leadership appointments upon merit. The challenging tasks to prevent politics, ethnicity, tribalism, cronyism, and nepotism from influencing appointments will take perseverance and patience by Mohammadi. When Mohammadi was the army chief of staff, he was able to achieve substantial improvements in the army’s capabilities by championing meritocracy. With the police, he will need to redouble his efforts, for Karzai and other political figures have intruded into appointments more often with the police than the army. Mohammadi’s ties to the army also make him uniquely qualified to increase cooperation between the police and the army in the field. Such cooperation is essential, above all because most police units are not adequately prepared to deal with sizable groups of armed insurgents on their own.
One advantage for appointing Mohammadi as the Minister of Interior is the hope of mending the rifts within the Afghan National Army that opened or widened as a result of the U.S. government’s plan to begin withdrawing forces in July 2011. Expecting the eruption of a civil war after the American withdrawal, officers have been gravitating towards ethnic groupings and powerful generals, with Mohammadi and the Pashtu Defense Minister Wardak at the head of the two largest cliques. The departure of Mohammadi from the Ministry of Defense leaves no one who can rival Wardak in stature, which could mean a weakening of centrifugal forces.
One of Mohammadi's strategies is to push greater authority down to local police commanders. When Mohammadi was the Chief of Staff of the Afghan National Army, he enforced the decentralization process within an institution heavily influenced by senior officers who had been trained in the centralized model. A decentralized command requires a wide range to regulate due to the fact that some commanders lack the abilities and must be identified for help or removal. Upper-echelon commanders must get out of their headquarters and visit the field commanders, a practice alien to some senior Afghan officers. Fortunately, Mohammadi as well known for circulating the battlefield as an army commander, and has already implemented his regular process of making unannounced inspection trips to police stations at all hours of the day and night. Mohammadi undoubtedly will expect other senior commanders to do the same.
As the Minister of the Interior, Mohammadi stressed the need to curb the corruption that has corroded the government and the people’s trust in it. Mohammadi has already begun taking some of the actions essential to the reduction of corruption. He is, for example, keeping tabs on the movements of Ministry of Interior officials, and has fired several police chiefs for corruption.
Bismillah Khan Mohammadi has received the Sayed Jamaluddin Afghani, Ghazi Amanullah Khan and Ahmad Shah Baba awards for his efforts in bolstering the Afghan National Army.