December 14, 2010 / 9:16 PM / 9 years ago

Holbrooke, doctors talked Afghanistan before surgery

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Richard Holbrooke told his doctors before surgery on Friday he was too worried about Afghanistan and Pakistan to settle down, leading one to offer to solve the problem while he was anesthetized.

In an unusual step, the State Department spokesman on Tuesday offered details on the most private of conversations — the late diplomat’s hospital exchanges with his medical team — after the Washington Post reported Holbrooke’s final words to a doctor were: “You’ve got to stop this war in Afghanistan.”

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters at his daily briefing that Holbrooke had a lengthy exchange with his doctors before surgery to repair a tear in his aorta.

The veteran diplomat, architect of the 1995 accord that ended the war in Bosnia and President Barack Obama’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, died on Monday at age 69.

Crowley said Holbrooke’s conversation with his doctors probably reflected his “relentless pursuit of the policy that he had helped to craft and was charged by the president and the secretary with carrying out.

Nine years after the U.S. invasion that toppled the Taliban rulers in Afghanistan, there are nearly 150,000 foreign troops in the country — almost 100,000 of them from the United States. They are fighting an insurgency that has been fortified by its ability to find safe havens in neighboring Pakistan.

“At one point the medical team said, you’ve got to relax. and Richard said, I can’t relax, I’m worried about Afghanistan and Pakistan,” Crowley said, stressing this was not verbatim.

After some additional back and forth, Crowley said the medical team member “finally said: tell you what we’ll try to fix this challenge while you’re undergoing surgery.”

“And he (Holbrooke) said, yeah, see if you can take care of that, including ending the war.”

Editing by Christopher Wilson

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