U.S. diplomat Richard Holbrooke died Monday at the age of 69 – following surgery for a ruptured aorta – while serving as special U.S. envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Holbrooke's government career began in 1962 with a foreign service assignment in Vietnam. He served under every Democratic president from John F. Kennedy to Barack Obama.
Mr. Obama praised Holbrooke at a State Department function Monday evening, just hours before he died.
"From 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 as our special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, and countless crises and hot spots in between," said President Obama. "He is simply one of the giants of American foreign policy."
In perhaps his most celebrated achievement, Holbrooke brokered the Dayton peace accord in 1995, which ended the war in Bosnia.
"On paper we have peace," Holbrooke said. "To make it work is our next and greatest challenge."
Haris Silajdzic, a member of Bosnia's three-member presidency, took part in the Dayton talks. On Tuesday, he praised Holbrooke's diplomatic skill.
"The world has lost a very able diplomat," said Silajdzic. "We need good people all over the world to prevent wars and to make peace. He was one of the best."
In recent years, Holbrooke had been serving as President Obama's special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan. In that role, his plain-spoken, hard-charging style sometimes put him at odds with U.S. military leaders and foreign officials.
"The people who demand that the foreign troops leave Afghanistan before they talk about peace are actually asking for surrender. Let us not be naive about this," said Holbrooke.
Afghan foreign ministry spokesman Ahmad Zahir Faqiri said Holbrooke's death is cause for sorrow.
"We express our deep condolences to the government of the United States, to the people of the United States and to the family of the late Holbrooke," Faqiri said.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a statement saying the U.S. has lost one of its fiercest and most dedicated public servants. Clinton said Holbrooke was one of a kind – a true statesman – which, she said, makes his passing all the more painful.