WASHINGTON: Richard Holbrooke, the US special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, was critically ill Saturday in hospital where he has been joined by family members, the State Department said.
“This morning, doctors completed surgery to repair a tear in his aorta. He is in critical condition and has been joined by his family” at George Washington University Hospital in the US capital, State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said in a statement.
Holbrooke took ill on Friday while working on the seventh floor of the State Department building, which is where US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s office is located.
The hard-nosed trouble shooter is perhaps best known for brokering the 1995 peace agreement that ended three years of war in Bosnia.
As US envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Holbrooke has maneuvered the daunting task of pushing Kabul and Islamabad to work jointly against resurgent Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants as part of US President Barack Obama’s push to shore up the US war effort in Afghanistan.
Holbrooke’s health has at times been a concern, and the veteran US diplomat underwent tests in New York in April for possible blocked arteries, though doctors gave him the all-clear to travel.
He maintains a hectic travel schedule, and was in Islamabad as recently as last month.
Holbrooke’s hospitalization comes as the White House conducts a review of war strategy in Afghanistan, one year after Obama announced a deployment of an additional 30,000 US troops in a bid to turn around the war.
A senior defense official has said it will likely credit a troop surge with bolstering security, but warn that the insurgency is far from defeated.
Dubbed “the bulldozer” for his impatient, hard-charging style, Holbrooke alternately browbeat and cajoled the nationalist leaders of former Yugoslavia until he succeeded in forging a peace deal in November 1995 in Dayton, Ohio, following a round of Nato air strikes against Serb forces.
The Dayton agreement has held the shaky Bosnian state together despite persistent tensions among rival communities.