Richard Holbrooke, a forceful presence in American diplomacy for more than 45 years, died tonight in Washington, D.C. He was 69.
His death, from a torn aorta, was confirmed by sources to ABC News White House Correspondent Jake Tapper.
Holbrooke, who was serving as the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, was putting the finishing touches on a major report on American military and diplomatic efforts in Afghanistan, due to be released on Thursday.
President Obama dropped by a holiday reception in honor of foreign ambassadors in the State Department’s ornate Benjamin Franklin Room to thank them for their work, but before that he praised the ailing Ambassador Holbrooke, the administration’s point-man on Afghanistan and Pakistan who underwent 20 hour surgery over the weekend to repair a tear in his aorta.
“Richard Holbrooke has been serving this nation with distinction for nearly 50 years,” he said. “He is simply one of the giants of American foreign policy. And as anyone who has worked with him knows, or has had the clear disadvantage of negotiating across the table from him, Richard is relentless. He never stops, he never quits.”
The President met with Holbrooke’s wife, Kati Marton, and family shortly before coming out to speak and they were in the audience, as were members of Holbrooke’s interagency team.