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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

US diplomat Richard Holbrooke dies

WASHINGTON: Richard Holbrooke, the US diplomat who brokered the accord that ended the war in Bosnia and served as US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, has died, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Monday.

Holbrooke, 69, whose government career spanned five decades and ranged from being a junior diplomat in South Vietnam to serving as the US ambassador to Germany and at the United Nations, died after surgery to repair a tear in his aorta.

He fell ill on Friday during a meeting with Clinton and was taken to a Washington hospital for emergency treatment. He underwent hours of surgery to try to save his life.
“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,” Clinton said in a statement.

“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.”

A tenacious diplomat who earned a reputation as a “bulldozer” in negotiating the 1995 Dayton Accords that concluded the Bosnian war, Holbrooke was once called “Washington’s favorite last-ditch diplomat” by Time magazine.

Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize seven times, Holbrooke joined President Barack Obama’s administration in January 2009 as special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, dealing with two of Washington’s most vexing foreign policy challenges.

Nine years after the US invasion that toppled the Taliban in Afghanistan, there are nearly 100,000 US troops in the country battling an insurgency that has been fortified by its ability to find safe havens in neighboring Pakistan.

Analysts do not expect Holbrooke’s death to have much impact on a report due this week on the impact of Obama’s build-up of forces in the Afghanistan war. The US strategy is meant to allow Afghan security forces to gradually take over and permit American troops start withdrawing in July 2011.

Teresita Schaffer, a retired US ambassador who writes on South Asia, called Holbrooke a “larger than life” figure who had been at the center of US policy and activities in the region. “As for relations with Afghanistan and Pakistan, he’s had a mixed impact, forceful but abrasive,” she said.

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