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2. Afghanistan

Most U.S. troops are set to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014, but efforts at reconstruction are still hemorrhaging money. Investigators at the Pentagon, State Department and Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) are continuing to find billions of dollars in waste.

 In July, watchdogs warned that as much as $1 billion in reconstruction efforts might have been siphoned off by corrupt officials and the illegal imposition of fees and tariffs.

There’s been misspending on military bases too. Twice in 2013 SIGAR found examples of military officers paying $5 million to construct new incinerators, then never using the devices before tearing them down.

But perhaps one of the most egregious spending mistakes came in February. Inspectors found the U.S. gave more than $1 billion to the Afghan National Army for fuel purchases. Yet oversight of the payout was so lax that investigators think some of that money in turn went to purchase oil from Iran, a clear violation of international sanctions.

1. The government shutdown

Not only did it bring the government to a screeching halt, it wound up costing taxpayers a boatload of money as well. Estimates on just how much the shutdown cost vary, but the Standard & Poor’s credit agency estimated that the bill for taxpayers was $24 billion.

Part of that sum is the backpay owed to “non-esssential” federal workers who were furloughed, estimated at more than $2 billion. That prompted Sen Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, to question the back salaries.

“It is not the fault of these civil servants that Congress did not do its job and, like everyone else, they have bills to pay,” Mr. Coburn wrote in his 2013 Wastebook. “But it is truly unfair to charge billions of dollars to pay others not to work to taxpayers working to cover their own bills and the bills of the government.”