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Holbrooke's last words: 'Worried' about Af-Pak

December 15, 2010 13:44 IST

Even in his final moments, United States troubleshooter Richard Holbrooke was "worried" about Pakistan and Afghanistan, reflecting his "relentless" pursuit of the policy that he crafted to help the region tackle terrorism.

As doctors at the George Washington University Hospital were taking him to the operation table, 69-year-old Holbrooke, the US special envoy for the Af-Pak region, told them that he had most pressing issues to handle like ending the war in Afghanistan.

US 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 Friday while reviewing the latest White House policy on Af-Pak region -- gave some account of final moments of the special US envoy who died on Tuesday.

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 mdiapersons.

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," according to Crowley.

It says two things about Holbrooke, he said. "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 aide, 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 (Indian-origin) Vikram Singh," he said.

"The SRAP structure that will continue on in his absence combines individuals and experts from across government. It incorporates international partners into this structure. It is expressly the kind of organisation that he felt was absent in Vietnam and for which he has built a crack team that will continue the policies that the administration pursues within the context of Afghanistan and Pakistan," Crowley said.

Image: Former US Special AfPak representative Richard Holbrooke

Photograph: Reuters

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