TODAY   |  December 14, 2010

Veteran diplomat Holbrooke dead at 69

Serving under every Democratic president since John F. Kennedy, Richard Holbrooke was most notably the architect of the Bosnian peace agreement in 1995 and most recently served as  the Obama administration's special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reports.

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MEREDITH VIEIRA, co-host: But for now to sad news out of Washington . Veteran diplomat Richard Holbrooke , President Obama 's special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan , has died. NBC 's chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell has more on Holbrooke 's storied career. Andrea , good morning to you.

ANDREA MITCHELL reporting: Good morning, Meredith . Nominated seven times for the Nobel Peace Prize , Richard Holbrooke 's crowning achievement was ending the war in Bosnia . To the end he was striving to end another war, in Afghanistan . Widely considered one of the most gifted diplomats of his generation, Richard Holbrooke was praised by President Obama and Hillary Clinton Monday night at a diplomatic reception, shortly before Holbrooke lost his last battle.

President BARACK OBAMA: America is more secure and the world is a safer place because of the work of Ambassador Richard Holbrooke .

Secretary of State HILLARY CLINTON: He's a fierce negotiator -- I'm sure there are some shoulders here tonight that are still a little bit sore from his arm twisting -- but he is a fiercer friend and a beloved mentor, an invaluable counselor.

MITCHELL: Richard Holbrooke began his career as a foreign service officer in Vietnam in 1963 . He quickly rose to the White House under Lyndon Johnson where he drafted a key war memo and wrote a chapter of the Pentagon Papers . During the Nixon years, Holbrooke accompanied Henry Kissinger to the Vietnam peace talks in Paris , often at the side of great figures like Kissinger and legendary presidential counselor Clark Clifford . Holbrooke aspired to be a great man himself, his signature achievement negotiating an end to the war in Bosnia at the Dayton peace talks in 1995 . That ended a religious and ethnic war that had raged in Europe in what had once been Yugoslavia .

Ambassador RICHARD HOLBROOKE: This is the best alternative to continued war.

MITCHELL: He served as ambassador to Germany and then to the United Nations under Bill Clinton . A close adviser to John Kerry , Holbrooke was known to have aspired to have become secretary of state had Kerry been elected. Instead, the next Democrat to occupy the White House was Barack Obama , who offered the State Department job to Hillary Clinton . Clinton carved out a

special envoy role for Holbrooke, awarding him the toughest assignment of all: Pakistan and Afghanistan . Married to author and journalist Kati Marton , a celebrated human rights advocate, Holbrooke at the end was at Hillary Clinton 's side on duty at the State Department , a larger-than-life presence who helped reshape foreign policy for generations. And today the president will be meeting with his advisers for his long-awaited review of the Afghanistan policy, tragically without Holbrooke . Holbrooke was single minded in his focus to the very end. His family says that before being given anesthesia for his emergency surgery, he told his Pakistani surgeon, quote, "You've got to stop this war in Afghanistan ." Meredith :