Holbrooke, US global troubleshooter, dies (Second Lead)

Monday, December 13, 2010

WASHINGTON - Richard Holbrooke, the US special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan and broker of peace in Bosnia in the mid 1990s, has died after undergoing surgery to repair an aortic tear.

Holbrooke, 69, collapsed in the office of US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton Friday and underwent 20 hours of surgery at George Washington University Hospital, officials said.

Holbrooke’s death comes as US President Barack Obama is preparing to roll out the next steps for the war in Afghanistan. Holbrooke has been a key figure in managing the delicate relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Shortly before Holbrooke died Monday, his wife Kati and children had attended a holiday reception to honour diplomats with Obama. They were at Holbrooke’s bedside when he died, Clinton said later in a statement.

Obama had not yet reacted officially to news of Holbrooke’s death. But in his remarks at the reception, Obama noted the prayers for the recovery of a “tough son of a gun”.

“America is more secure and the world is a safer place - because of the work of ambassador Richard Holbrooke,” Obama said.

In a statement, Clinton called his death a “sad day” for the US, saying: “Tonight America has lost one of its fiercest champions and most dedicated public servants.”

“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,” she said.

The diplomat made numerous trips to Afghanistan and Pakistan during the two years he has been the State Department’s special envoy. A former ambassador to Germany, Holbrooke helped broker the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords, which ended the Bosnian civil war.

Obama noted Holbrooke’s wide palate of experience, starting as a “young foreign service officer in Vietnam to the architect of the accords that ended the slaughter in the Balkans, to advancing our regional efforts” for peace in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“He is simply one of the giants of American foreign policy,” Obama said.

Senator John Kerry said Holbrooke’s life work had “saved tens of thousands of lives”.

“Wherever there was a need for courage and insight, he showed up for duty,” Kerry said, according to CNN.

Former US diplomat Peter Galbraith called Holbrooke a “masterful three-dimensional chess player”.

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