Holbrooke, who died of complications during heart surgery Monday, implied to hospital staff as he was preparing for an early Friday surgery that he wanted to end the war.
The Washington Post in its account of the conversation reported that Holbrooke "jokingly" told his physician to "stop this war."
Holbrooke, a career diplomat who brokered the end to the Bosnian war in 1995, was serving as the U.S. special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan.
P.J. Crowley, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department, told reporters during his regular briefing that Holbrooke was "probably reflecting" on his "relentless pursuit" of the war policy he helped draft with key Washington officials.
"It just showed how he was singularly focused on pursuing and advancing the process and the policies in Afghanistan and Pakistan to bring them to a successful conclusion," the spokesman added.
The assessment of Holbrooke's comments comes ahead of a Thursday speech on the progress of the war in Afghanistan. The Wall Street Journal reports that U.S. President Barack Obama will note progress in defeating a Taliban insurgency but find issue with safe havens in Pakistan.