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Holbrooke's last words: wanted to end the war

world Updated: Dec 15, 2010 02:24 IST
George Washington University Hospital

As the doctors of the George Washington University Hospital were taking him to the operation table, Richard Holbrooke, US' special Af-Pak envoy told them that he had most pressing issues to tackle, including ending the war in Afghanistan.

State Department spokesman P J Crowley, who spoke to a number of persons in the operation room where Holbrooke was taken after he fell ill on Saturday, gave some account of the final moments.

In an effort to calm him down, the doctors held conversations with him discussing his concerns, the most prominent among them being his Af-Pak responsibility.

"There was a, you know, lengthy exchange with Ambassador Holbrooke and the medical team, probably reflecting Richard's relentless pursuit of the policy that he had helped to craft and was charged by the President and the Secretary with carrying out," Crowley said.

But the surgeon in question was not of Pakistani origin, as reported in some media outlets, the senior administration official told reporters.

The surgeon was of Egyptian origin, well known to Holbrooke and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"At one point the medical team said: You've got to relax. And Richard said: I can't relax; I've got -- I'm worried about Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"And then after some additional exchanges the medical team finally said: We'll you what; we'll try to fix this challenge while you're undergoing surgery. And he said: Yeah, see if you can take care of that, including ending the war," Crowley said.

"It says two things about Richard Holbrooke, in my mind. Number one, he always wanted to make sure he got the last word.

"And secondly, it just showed how he was singularly focused on pursuing and advancing the process and the policies in Afghanistan and Pakistan to bring them to a successful conclusion," he said.

Crowley said Clinton has retained the same team which Holbrooke created for his Afghanistan and Pakistan agenda.

Frank Ruggiero, Holbrooke's key aid, has been moved up to be the Acting Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"He will lead the SRAP structure that Richard Holbrooke constructed, and will really serve as one of his, you know, finest legacies, assisted by two deputies, Dan Feldman and Vikram Singh," he said.

Vikram Singh is of Indian-origin.