US Special Envoy to Pakistan, Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke Dies at 69

Richard Holbrooke, the top diplomat in charge of U.S. civilian efforts in Pakistan and Afghanistan, passed away Dec. 13. Photo by: Center for American Progress / CC BY-ND Center for American ProgressCC BY-ND

Richard Holbrooke, the top diplomat in charge of U.S. civilian efforts in Pakistan and Afghanistan, passed away Dec. 13 at the George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C. He was 69.

Holbrooke was rushed to the hospital Dec. 10 after feeling ill while at the U.S. Department of State, news agencies report. He underwent surgery the following day to repair a tear in his aorta.

Holbrooke was among the world’s most recognizable diplomats, CNN notes. Before his appointment as U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, he was involved in U.S. diplomatic efforts in Vietnam and Bosnia, where he spearheaded the creation of a peace deal between warring factions in 1995. 

Holbrooke was a “a true giant of American foreign policy” and “a truly unique figure who will be remembered for his tireless diplomacy, love of country and pursuit of peace,” U.S. President Barack Obama said. The president added that the diplomat deserves credit for much of the U.S.’s hard won progress in Pakistan and Afghanistan, The Associated Press reports.

The Washington Post notes that Holbrooke’s death “leaves a major void” in the Obama administration’s strategy in the two conflict-afflicted countries.

Holbrooke began his diplomatic career in the 1960s as a foreign service officer stationed in Vietnam, a post that included a tour of duty with the U.S. Agency for International Development. He also served as the Peace Corps director in Morocco in the 1970s, CNN says.

Read more tributes to Richard Holbrooke:

U.S. Department of State

U.S. Agency for International Development

U.N. Foundation

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Business Civic Leadership Center

Foreign Policy magazine

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  • Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.