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John Podesta on the Passing of Richard Holbrooke

SOURCE: AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Richard Holbrooke, the Obama administration’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan since 2009, died yesterday in Washington at the age of 69.

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The United States has lost a great public servant.

Amb. Richard Holbrooke was a brilliant man who could have chosen any path for his life. But he decided to devote his immense skills to public service—a service that was dedicated to the objective of extending to those less fortunate than ourselves the great gift of peace enjoyed by Americans.

Among his many achievements, Holbrooke’s most remarkable accomplishment was the negotiation of the Dayton Accords, which brought an end to the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The fighting among Serbs, Croats, and Bosniaks was the most savage slaughter to engulf Europe since the cessation of World War II. The end of that war saved countless lives and established the framework that in the 15 years since has brought stability and genuine economic growth to that fragile area. It was Holbrooke’s unwavering commitment and confidence that accepted no failure in reaching that agreement—nothing less could have stopped the killing.

Holbrooke was a diplomat who always honored the tremendous contributions and sacrifices for a more peaceful world made by the brave men and women in the U.S. armed forces. He stood by and with them through virtually all of the national security crises of his professional life.

It was therefore no surprise when President Barack Obama tapped Holbrooke to be his special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. The potential for his ability to bring positive change to that complex conflict means America’s loss at his passing is now shared by Afghans and Pakistanis.

American diplomacy has suffered a great loss. Holbrooke was a great friend of mine, and we will miss him.

John Podesta is President and CEO of American Progress.

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