'I don't have any regret,' Louisiana veteran reacts to fall of Afghanistan, end of America's longest war
BATON ROUGE - At just 19 years old, Alec Daniel signed up to be shipped into a war zone. After figuring out college wasn't for him, the capital city native served two deployments in Afghanistan as a member of the 101st Airborne Division.
Deployed in 2010 and again in 2012, Daniel was stationed in Kunar Province.
"Pretty rough spot right on the Pakistan border," Daniel said. "I was an infantry team leader my first deployment and then a sniper my second deployment."
What began as a childhood fascination with the military became a calling for Daniel that drew him into America's longest war.
In an interview with WBRZ Tuesday, Daniel recalled watching war movies with his grandfather growing up. Those films would ignite a fire inside of him that would take years to put out.
As soon as his boots hit the ground, however, Daniel began to understand the factions in Afghanistan.
"You have these valleys, and within a valley, [there are] ten villages," Daniel explained. And each village within the valley has their own political system, with a village elder being the president, if you will. They don't see themselves as part of a bigger country, and so, I think that is a core problem."
Now, as images of desperate Afghans attempting to flee Taliban control permeate American airwaves, Daniel says this outcome was inevitable.
"I never saw it being successful, them being able to defend, without us being there to support them," Daniel said.
And without that support, the country has quickly fallen into chaos.
"I expected it to happen, but I didn't expect it to happen that fast," Daniel said of the Taliban's return to power. "It goes back to what I was just saying about ... the thin line between the Afghan army and the Taliban. We left, and the line was removed."
With the focus now on getting Americans and allied Afghans to safety, Daniel has spent a lot of time thinking about his lasting bonds with interpreters and others in the region.
As conditions in Afghanistan deteriorated, Daniel recently spoke with one of his division's interpreters. The interpreter, identified as Dan, is safely in Canada but has family still in Kabul he has been unable to reach.
Daniel believes there is a grim future with the Taliban in charge and American forces gone.
"I'm just scared for those people, the good ones that did want to make their country a better place but were unable to," Daniel said. "I just feel for them."
Even as he watches events unfold and re-examines when and how the war spiraled out of control, Daniel is unwavering in the decision he made years ago to sacrifice and serve his country.
"No, I don't have any regret," Daniel said. "I feel like I got to meet some of the greatest men of my generation. I got to stand shoulder to shoulder with them. For that reason, I don't regret it, no."