At eighteen, Ian Fritz joined the Air Force out of necessity and was soon selected to become an Airborne Cryptologic Linguist in the war in Afghanistan. Over the course of two tours, Fritz listened to the Taliban for hundreds of hours, all over the country night and day, in moments of peace and in the middle of battle. WHAT THE TALIBAN TOLD ME (Simon & Schuster; November 7, 2023) is the powerful memoir of his harrowing experiences coming of age in a war that is lost.

Fritz’s fluency in Dari and Pashto, the main languages of Afghanistan, is his greatest asset to the military, yet it becomes the greatest liability to his own commitment to the cause. His eavesdropping is critical to supporting Special Forces units on the ground, but there is no training to counter the emotional complexity that develops as you listen to people’s most intimate conversations. In WHAT THE TALIBAN TOLD ME, Fritz grapples with pride for his service and despair that he is instrumental in destroying the voices that he hears. Looking back on his service in the Air Force, Fritz shares what he learned about the people of Afghanistan, the war, and himself.

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Episode Intro Music: “Prelude” by “Silence & Light” (

Photo Credit: Hazard Ground

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