WASHINGTON — Richard Holbrooke, the US special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, underwent more surgery yesterday to fix a tear in the large artery that moves blood from the heart, the State Department said. The operation came after 20 hours of surgery that ended Saturday.
Yesterday’s seven-hour procedure was necessary after surgery to repair Holbrooke’s aorta was slowed by the failure of his blood to clot, said family friends who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Holbrooke’s family “is grateful for the outpouring of support and prayers coming in from his many friends, colleagues and leaders around the world,’’ State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said in an e-mailed statement.
Holbrooke, 69, isn’t out of danger, and prospects for recovery may not be clear for several days, the friends said.
A torn aorta is a condition in which a rip develops in the inner wall of the aorta, allowing blood to enter the vessel wall and weaken it. If not corrected, the condition can lead to rapid death.
Holbrooke was meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton about midmorning Friday at the State Department when he collapsed.
“Many people would have succumbed to that,’’ White House adviser David Axelrod told CNN’s “State of the Union’’ yesterday. “Richard is fighting through.’’
Holbrooke’s prolonged absence could affect the ability of President Obama’s administration ability to put in place — and also sell to a skeptical Congress — its push for Afghan forces to assume a greater role in the fighting, allowing US troops to come home. It is a transition in which Holbrooke was expected to play an important part.
Over the past several months, Holbrooke has been preparing a report for Obama on the state of governance and development in Afghanistan. He has made many visits to the region and developed relationships with leaders in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Holbrooke is a veteran diplomat who, as an assistant secretary of state under President Bill Clinton, was the chief architect of the 1995 Dayton accords that ended the war in Bosnia. He later served as the US envoy to the United Nations.