U.S. Special Envoy to Pakistan & Afghanistan Holbrooke

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A career U.S. diplomat lost his life to a heart condition Monday. Richard Holbrooke served as a special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan. His career with the U.S. government spanned some 50 years.

A top U.S. diplomat, who served as a special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, has died. 69-year-old Richard Holbrooke lost his life due to complications from emergency heart surgery Monday.

His government career spanned nearly five decades and ranged from junior diplomat in South Vietnam to serving as the U.S. ambassador to Germany and at the United Nations.

U.S. President Barack Obama praised Holbrooke on Monday at a State Department holiday reception hours before Holbrooke died.

[Barack Obama, U.S. President]:
"Richard Holbrooke has been serving this nation with distinction for nearly 50 years -- 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."

Holbrooke fell ill on Friday and was taken to a Washington, D.C. hospital, where he underwent hours of extensive surgery to try to save his life.

The veteran U.S. diplomat, who brokered the 1995 Dayton accords ending the Balkans war, had been a key player in President Obama's efforts to turn around the faltering nine-year-old war in Afghanistan.

Holbrooke also served as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and to Germany and twice was assistant secretary of state.

Holbrooke joined Obama's administration in January 2009 as special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, dealing with two of Washington's most difficult foreign policy challenges.

He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize seven times.