President, Others on Richard Holbrooke's Death

Richard Holbrooke
WATCH Richard Holbrooke Dies

President Barack Obama and several political leaders offered their condolences to a man who was a powerful presence in American diplomacy for more than 45 years.

Richard Holbrooke, who served as the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, died tonight in Washington, D.C. He was 69.

His death comes after an emergency surgery Friday for a torn aorta.

Statement from President Barack Obama:

"Michelle and I are deeply saddened by the passing of Richard Holbrooke, a true giant of American foreign policy who has made America stronger, safer, and more respected. He was a truly unique figure who will be remembered for his tireless diplomacy, love of country, and pursuit of peace."

"For nearly 50 years, Richard served the country he loved with honor and distinction. He worked as a young foreign service officer during the Vietnam War and then supported the Paris peace talks which ended that war. As a young Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, he helped normalize relations with China. As U.S. Ambassador to Germany, he helped Europe emerge from a long Cold War and encouraged NATO to welcome new members."

"As Assistant Secretary of State for European and Canadian Affairs, he was the tireless chief architect of the Dayton Accords that ended the war in Bosnia 15 years ago this week, saving countless lives. As Ambassador to the United Nations, Richard helped break a political impasse and strengthen our nation's relationship with the UN and elevated the cause of AIDS and Africa on the international agenda. And throughout his life, as a child of refugees, he devoted himself to the plight of people displaced around the world."

"When I became President, I was grateful that Richard agreed to serve as Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. The progress that we have made in Afghanistan and Pakistan is due in no small measure to Richard's relentless focus on America's national interest, and pursuit of peace and security. He understood, in his life and his work, that our interests encompassed the values that we hold so dear. And as usual, amidst his extraordinary duties, he also mentored young people who will serve our country for decades to come. One of his friends and admirers once said that, "If you're not on the team and you're in his way, God help you." Like so many Presidents before me, I am grateful that Richard Holbrooke was on my team, as are the American people."

"Earlier this evening at the State Department, I met with Richard's wife Kati and their family, David, Anthony, Lizzie, Christopher and Sarah, and I spoke to Kati after Richard's passing. I expressed to them the gratitude of the American people for his lifetime of service. They are in our thoughts and prayers tonight. Tonight, there are millions of people around the world whose lives have been saved and enriched by his work. As I said earlier this evening, the United States is safer and the world is more secure because of the half century of patriotic service of Ambassador Richard Holbrooke."

Statement from Vice President Joe Biden:

"Today, I lost a great friend and America lost one of its greatest warriors for peace. Richard Holbrooke was a larger than life figure, who through his brilliance, determination and sheer force of will helped bend the curve of history in the direction of progress. He touched so many lives and helped save countless more. He was a tireless negotiator, a relentless advocate for American interests, and the most talented diplomat we've had in a generation. Jill and I will miss him tremendously and we extend our deepest sympathies to his wife Kati and the entire Holbrooke family during their time of grief."

Statement from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

"Tonight America has lost one of its fiercest champions and most dedicated public servants. Richard Holbrooke served the country he loved for nearly half a century, representing the United States in far-flung war-zones and high-level peace talks, always with distinctive brilliance and unmatched determination. He was one of a kind -- a true statesman -- and that makes his passing all the more painful."

"From his early days in Vietnam to his historic role bringing peace to the Balkans to his last mission in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard helped shape our history, manage our perilous present, and secure our future. He was the consummate diplomat, able to stare down dictators and stand up for America's interests and values even under the most difficult circumstances. He served at every level of the Foreign Service and beyond, helping mentor generations of talented officers and future ambassadors. Few people have ever left a larger mark on the State Department or our country. From Southeast Asia to post-Cold War Europe and around the globe, people have a better chance of a peaceful future because of Richard's lifetime of service."

"I had the privilege to know Richard for many years and to call him a friend, colleague and confidante. As Secretary of State, I have counted on his advice and relied on his leadership. This is a sad day for me, for the State Department and for the United States of America."

"True to form, Richard was a fighter to the end. His doctors marveled at his strength and his willpower, but to his friends, that was just Richard being Richard. I am grateful for the tireless efforts of all the medical staff, and to everyone who sat by his side or wished him well in these final days."

"Tonight my thoughts and prayers are with Richard's beloved wife Kati, his sons David and Anthony, his step-children Elizabeth and Chris Jennings, his daughter-in-law Sarah, and all of his countless friends and colleagues."

Statement from Former President Bill Clinton:

"In a lifetime of passionate, brilliant service on the front lines of war and peace, freedom and oppression, Richard Holbrooke saved lives, secured peace, and restored hope for countless people around the world. Tomorrow marks the 15-year anniversary of the signing of the Dayton Accords - the agreement Dick negotiated which stopped the killings in Bosnia and paved a path to peace in the Balkans that endures today. He was central to our efforts to limit ethnic cleansing in Kosovo and pave the way for its independence, and he found a way to break the stalemate in talks in Cyprus. I was proud to nominate him as the United States' ambassador to the United Nations, where he helped equip the UN to meet the challenges of our 21st Century world. For the last two years, he worked hard to counter terrorism and to build a secure, democratic future for A! fghanistan and Pakistan. Our nation is safer, and our world stronger, because of the work he did. I will miss my friend very much. My thoughts and prayers are with Kati, his sons, and legions of friends during this difficult time."

Statement from Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.):

"This awful news is almost incomprehensible, not least of all because I cannot imagine Richard Holbrooke in anything but a state of perpetual motion. He was always working. He was always a man on a mission, the toughest mission, and that mission was waging peace through tough as nails, never quit diplomacy - and Richard's life's work saved tens of thousands of lives."

"We loved his energy, we loved his resolve – that's who Richard was, and he died giving everything he had to one last difficult mission for the country he loved. It is almost a bittersweet bookend that a career of public diplomacy that began trying to save a war gone wrong, now ends with a valiant effort to keep another war from going wrong."

"Teresa and I both extend our heartfelt sympathy to Richard's family, especially his extraordinary wife Kati and Richard's two sons, David and Anthony."

"Our public careers were intertwined in so many ways, from Vietnam to my presidential campaign to the conflict in Afghanistan, and every step of the way he provided wise advice and intelligent guidance to presidents and statespeople alike. It is difficult to put into words how very much we will all miss our friend, and how much the nation will miss his judgment and character."

"Richard was an outsized personality who never tired of tackling the toughest challenges. But he met his match in Kati Marton. They were soul mates, a perfect pair of intellectuals whose curiosity and passion kept them involved in public service. We are all thinking of her this evening."

"Wherever chaos and violence threatened American interests and human lives for nearly a half century, wherever there was a need for courage and insight, Richard Holbrooke showed up for duty. He spent his formative years as a young foreign service officer in Vietnam, where he worked in the Mekong Delta and then on the staffs of two American ambassadors, Maxwell Taylor and Henry Cabot Lodge. Given the storied expanse of his career, people sometimes forget that Richard wrote a volume of the Pentagon Papers, the seminal work that helped turn the course of the Vietnam War. As with all of us who served in Vietnam, Richard's experience there informed his every judgment, and instilled in him a lifelong commitment to work to ensure that peace and diplomacy prevailed over war."

"Richard never shied from the tough assignments, and he undertook his last one with the same determination that enabled him to - through sheer will - broker the peace agreement among the warring factions in Bosnia that resulted in the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords in 1995. He will always be remembered as a warrior for peace."

ABC News' Joshua Miller, Ned Potter, Kirit Radia and Jake Tapper contributed to this report. Additional reporting from The Associated Press.