Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld dies at 88

Donald Rumsfeld, the long-time politician and two-time defense secretary, has died, his family said Wednesday in a statement. He was 88.

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“It is with deep sadness that we share the news of the passing of Donald Rumsfeld, an American statesman and devoted husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather,” the statement said.

“History may remember him for his extraordinary accomplishments over six decades of public service, but for those who knew him best and whose lives were forever changed as a result, we will remember his unwavering love for his wife Joyce, his family and friends, and the integrity he brought to a life dedicated to country.”

Regarded by former colleagues as equally smart and combative, patriotic and politically cunning, Rumsfeld had a storied career in government under four presidents and nearly a quarter century in corporate America.

He began his career in Washington in 1957, after serving three years in the U.S. Navy. He worked as an administrative assistant to then-Rep. David Dennison of Ohio before being elected himself to represent Illinois in the House of Representatives. He served in that role from 1963 until 1969, when he left Congress to serve as director of the Office of Economic Opportunity and assistant to President Richard Nixon.

In 1975, under President Gerald Ford, Rumsfeld became the youngest person in the nation’s history to serve as Secretary of Defense. In 2001, when he was sworn in a Defense secretary under President George W. Bush, he was the oldest person to serve in the role. He is the only person to act twice as Pentagon chief in U.S. history.

Rumsfeld led the Defense Department after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and initially won praise for his leadership, according to The Washington Post. He oversaw the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and toppling of the Taliban regime.

However, by 2002, the Bush administration’s attention shifted to Iraq, which played no role in the Sept. 11 attacks. The war effort in Afghanistan took a back seat to Iraq, opening the way for the Taliban to make a comeback and prevent the U.S. from sealing the success of its initial invasion.

The U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was launched in March 2003. Baghdad fell quickly, but U.S. and allied forces soon became consumed with a violent insurgency. Critics faulted Rumsfeld for dismissing the pre-invasion assessment of the Army’s top general, Eric Shinseki, that several hundred thousand allied troops would be needed to stabilize Iraq.

Rumsfeld resigned as secretary of defense in 2006, after which he retired from politics. He is survived by his wife, three children and seven grandchildren, according to Axios.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.