KABUL (Reuters) - The Afghan Taliban said on Tuesday diplomat Richard Holbrooke was a giant of American politics and diplomacy but had been weakened by the challenge of trying to end a war that has dragged on for nearly a decade. Taliban Spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi said the Soviet Unions occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s caused the death of their leaders, although he did not cite medical evidence, and added the conflict may mean other US officials follow Holbrooke to lighten their burden by simply going to the other world. The protracted Afghan war and the descending trajectory of the Americans handling of the warfare in the country had a lethal dent on Holbrookes health as a high-ranking American official, Yousuf said in an emailed English-language statement. He was grappling with a constant psychological stress. Yousuf said Holbrooke was the latest in a long line of senior officials who were devastated by the effort of running a war in Afghanistan, citing the deaths of Soviet leaders Yuri Andropov, Konstantin Chernenko and Leonid Brezhnev. They relieved themselves of the hard task of the Afghan mission by retreating into the lap of death, he said. The recent symptoms are indicating that an outbreak of the same epidemic diseases has started in the political and military echelons of America, he added. Some of them lighten their burden by simply going to the other world and others, while being still alive, choose to avoid shouldering the mission, Yousuf added. The American embassy in Kabul did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the statement.