Douglas Laux was a steelworker’s son at a college in Indiana when he applied to the CIA. A few years later, the 20-something was dropped into the back of beyond on the Afghan-Pakistani border.
“The second I touched down I realized I don’t know what the hell I’m doing,” he says.
Laux left the agency three years ago and wrote the memoir “Left of Boom: How a Young CIA Case Officer Penetrated the Taliban and al-Qaeda.”
He says his first surprise was realizing the language skills the agency taught him didn’t work on the ground.
“I was trained in Pashtu. I walked out the door with a [score of] three on the government scale which means you’re fluent in reading and writing the language,” he says. “But once I got [to Afghanistan] I realized, ‘Hey, the word that I used for car is not the word they use for car.’ So it was a trial by fire.”
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