President Barack Obama has reached out to the family of Richard Holbrooke as the administration’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan recovers from surgery to repair a tear in his aorta.
Holbrooke, 69, was admitted Friday to George Washington University Hospital in Washington, where doctors completed surgery to repair the tear in his aorta Saturday, State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley said in a statement Saturday.
He was in critical condition after an additional procedure Sunday to improve his circulation, according to an update from Crowley.
“Richard Holbrooke is a towering figure in American foreign policy, a critical member of my Afghanistan and Pakistan team, and a tireless public servant who has won the admiration of the American people and people around the world,” Obama said in a statement Saturday. He and his wife, Michelle, “continue to pray for his recovery, and support his family in this difficult time,” Obama said.
White House senior advisor David Axelrod spoke Sunday morning of Holbrooke’s fighting spirit. “He had an aortic bleed, and many people would have succumbed to that,” Axelrod said. “Richard is fighting through it. Anyone who knows him — and I was with him Friday morning before this happened — knows how tough and resilient he is. And we’re all praying that that quality sees him through now.”
Obama said that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; National Security Adviser Tom Donilon and others have visited Holbrooke at the hospital.
Holbrooke was at the State Department with Clinton when he collapsed midmorning Friday, CNN reported.
He presided over the 1995 negotiations that ended fighting in Bosnia. He served as ambassador to Germany from 1993 to 1994 and ambassador to the United Nations from 1999 to 2001.