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Holbrooke's last words

A State Department official warns against making too much of Ambassador Richard Holbrooke's widely-reported sentiment to stop the war in Afghanistan that he uttered just before going in to surgery last week.

“You’ve got to stop this war in Afghanistan,” he said, per the Washington Post.

The official said that Holbrooke's doctors were urging him to calm down as they were preparing him for surgery last week. As they told him to settle down, he replied that he had too much to do. They told him they would take care of everything while he was in surgery and he joked back that if they could do his job, then they should see what they can do about stopping the war in Afghanistan, too.

The official said that Holbrooke had multiple doctors in the room at the time, including a Pakistani doctor, but there is "no indication" he was speaking to the Pakistani doctor when he said this. In fact, the official said the doctor he was speaking to at the time was Egyptian.

State Department spokesperson PJ Crowley also addressed this story during today's briefing, saying there was "a lengthy exchange with Holbrooke and the medical team."

Crowley said that when the medical team told Holbrooke to relax, he responded, "I can't relax. I'm worried about Afghanistan and Pakistan." Crowley said that after more back-and-forth, the medical team finally said, "We'll tell you what, we'll try to fix this challenge while you're undergoing surgery." Crowley said that Holbrooke joked, "Yeah, see if you can take care of that, including ending the war."

Crowley warned that there was no transcript of this exchange, and that it is based on Crowley's conversations with several people who were in the room at the time.

Crowley joked that this said two things about Holbrooke: "No. 1, he always wanted to make sure he got the last word." Two: "It showed how he was singularly focused on pursuing and advancing the the process and the policies in Afghanistan and Pakistan to bring them to a successful conclusion."