WASHINGTON (CN) – U.S. special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke died Monday night after undergoing emergency surgery to repair a tear in his aorta. He was 69.
“He is certainly one of the giants of American foreign policy,” President Obama said at the State Department Monday night.
Holbrooke fell ill while working at the State Department and traveled to George Washington University Hospital, where he died surrounded by family.
Holbrooke served in foreign policy for nearly 50 years, working as ambassador to the United Nations during the Clinton Administration and as chief negotiator at the Dayton Peace Accords, which ended the war in Bosnia. While working as a U.N. ambassador, he helped bring awareness about AIDS and Africa to the international stage.
“He is practically synonymous with American foreign policy of that time period,” Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said at the State Department Monday night.
Holbrooke worked as a foreign service officer during the Vietnam War and participated in the Paris peace talks that ended the war.
He also served as assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, ambassador to Germany and assistant secretary of state for European and Canadian affairs.
“[Holbrooke] made America stronger, safer, and more respected,” Obama said in a statement. “He was a truly unique figure who will be remembered for his tireless diplomacy, love of country and pursuit of peace.”
“The progress that we have made in Afghanistan and Pakistan is due in no small measure to Richard’s relentless focus on America’s national interest, and pursuit of peace and security,” Obama said.
Vice President Joe Biden said in a statement that Holbrooke represented the United States “in far-flung war-zones and high-level peace talks, always with distinctive brilliance and unmatched determination.”