America

Richard Holbrooke, Famed Diplomat And Afghan Envoy, Has Died

U.S. Envoy Richard Holbrooke Dies

Richard Holbrooke, special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, died Monday. He was 69. Win McNamee/Getty hide caption

itoggle caption Win McNamee/Getty

"Richard Holbrooke, an American diplomat who covered many of the globe's trouble spots in a career spanning nearly half a century, died Monday," NPR's Jackie Northam reports. She adds that "the U.S. special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan suffered a tear in his aorta and collapsed on Friday while at the State Department. He had been hospitalized since. He was 69."

We'll have more in a moment.

Update at 8:40 p.m. ET. The State Department just released this statement from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton:

"Tonight America has lost one of its fiercest champions and most dedicated public servants. Richard Holbrooke served the country he loved for nearly half a century, representing the United States in far-flung war-zones and high-level peace talks, always with distinctive brilliance and unmatched determination. He was one of a kind — a true statesman — and that makes his passing all the more painful.
"From his early days in Vietnam to his historic role bringing peace to the Balkans to his last mission in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard helped shape our history, manage our perilous present, and secure our future. He was the consummate diplomat, able to stare down dictators and stand up for America's interests and values even under the most difficult circumstances.

"He served at every level of the Foreign Service and beyond, helping mentor generations of talented officers and future ambassadors. Few people have ever left a larger mark on the State Department or our country. From Southeast Asia to post-Cold War Europe and around the globe, people have a better chance of a peaceful future because of Richard’s lifetime of service.

"I had the privilege to know Richard for many years and to call him a friend, colleague and confidante. As Secretary of State, I have counted on his advice and relied on his leadership. This is a sad day for me, for the State Department and for the United States of America.

"True to form, Richard was a fighter to the end. His doctors marveled at his strength and his willpower, but to his friends, that was just Richard being Richard. I am grateful for the tireless efforts of all the medical staff, and to everyone who sat by his side or wished him well in these final days.

"Tonight my thoughts and prayers are with Richard's beloved wife Kati, his sons David and Anthony, his step-children Elizabeth and Chris Jennings, his daughter-in-law Sarah, and all of his countless friends and colleagues."

Update at 8:30 p.m. ET. As Jackie Northam reminds us:

— "It was a rare blend of tough and gentle that helped Holbrooke evolve into a world-class negotiator. He first entered government service in 1963. At 22, he was sent to Vietnam as a foreign service officer."

— "Holbrooke went on to be a member of the U.S. delegation at the Vietnam peace talks in Paris. He also served as ambassador to Germany, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, and for Europe, and as U.S. ambassador to the U.N."

— "Arguably the height of his diplomatic career was the 1995 Dayton Accords. Holbrooke brought all sides in the Bosnia conflict to the negotiating table and orchestrated the effort to draw up a peace agreement to end the bloodshed in the Balkans."

The Washington Post writes that:

"A foreign policy adviser to four Democratic presidents, Mr. Holbrooke was a towering, one-of-a-kind presence who helped define American national security policy over 40 years and three wars by connecting Washington politicians with New York elites and influential figures in capitals around the world. He seemed to live on airplanes and move with equal confidence through Upper East Side cocktail parties, the halls of the White House and the slums of Pakistan."

The New York Times says:

"A brilliant, sometimes abrasive infighter with a formidable arsenal of facts, bluffs, whispers, implied threats and, when necessary, pyrotechnic fits of anger, Mr. Holbrooke dazzled and often intimidated opponents and colleagues around a negotiating table. Some called him a bully, and he looked the part: the big chin thrust out, the broad shoulders, the tight smile that might mean anything.

"But admirers, including generations of State Department protégés and the presidents he served, called his peacemaking efforts extraordinary."

Politico notes that:

"His death comes at a critical time for U.S. policy in Afghanistan, with a long-awaited assessment of military operations there due as soon as next week, and it was unclear how the loss would affect the issue."

Watch for much more reaction and analysis of what Holbrooke's death will mean for the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan in the morning.

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