The sound of the traditional American military song "Taps" filled the air under the bright sun in Kabul, reflecting the somber mood as U.S. Embassy staff and military service members gathered to honor Americans killed in Afghanistan on Memorial Day at the U.S.compound. This year's ceremony comes as officials report more than 1,000 U.S. servicemen and women have died as a result of the Afghan war.
This Memorial Day in Kabul was especially poignant.
"Today we remember those in our mission family and honor their devotion to the United States of America and to Afghanistan," said U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry during a speech in which he saluted servicemen, women and civilians who have during years of conflict in Afghanistan.
"Each of these courageous individuals was a son or daughter, brother or sister, husband, wife, father or mother. They were devoted citizens here doing their jobs, helping to make the world and Afghanistan a better place," Eikenberry said.
According to iCasualties.org -- a website that keeps track of coalition deaths -- the United States has suffered nearly four times the number of casualties in Afghanistan compared to the United Kingdom, which has the second highest death toll among allies.
Haroun Mir, director of Afghanistan's Center for Research and Policy Studies, says Americans should brace themselves as military operations against the Taliban in and around the southern province of Kandahar increase in intensity.
"There will be certainly more casualties among U.S. forces because the U.S. is taking the burden of the war against (the) Taliban in Afghanistan," warned Mir. "And this is something that the public opinion in the United States should be ready for - even larger casualties among U.S. soldiers."
He believes insurgents want increased violence to lower U.S. public support for the war and hasten the withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan.
At the end of last year, U.S. President Barack Obama announced a troop surge of some 30,000 U.S. service members. The United States has nearly 100,000 troops stationed in Afghanistan. Depending on the situation on the ground, President Obama says he hopes to start withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan in the middle of next year and transfer security to the Afghan forces.
But as it stands now, Haroun Mir with Afghanistan's Center for Research and Policy Studies says Afghans are skeptical whether their government is ready for the responsibility.