Is Bin Laden Next on Drones' Hit List?

If the U.S. is able to successfully kill Pakistan's most wanted man, Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud, it begs the question: Why haven't they been able to do the same to Osama bin Laden, the world's most wanted man?

"Why can't we find bin Laden and why isn't our intel better to ferret him out is a very legitimate question to ask," said Jack Cloonan, a former FBI case agent on the Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda investigations and now an ABC News consultant.

VIDEO: How Mehsuds Death Affects Pakistan
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Mehsud and his wife are believed to have been killed early Wednesday morning by a U.S. drone attack when they were on the roof of Mehsud's father-in-law's house in his birthplace of Makeen. Mehsud's death is not expected to be officially confirmed by DNA testing for a few days, but U.S., Pakistani and Taliban officials have all confirmed his death independently.

Cloonan said that while critics may be frustrated that the U.S. is able to locate and kill Mehsud but have not been able to do the same with bin Laden, Mehsud's killing serves as a "reaffirmation to the U.S.'s resolve on the war on terrorism."

"From a tactical point of view, when you have a success like this it shows that the fusion cells that have been set up between special operations on the U.S. side, the CIA and Pakistan are working," said Cloonan.

"In order for you to get someone in a place like [Makeen] it means that ultimately you have to have eyes and ears on the ground and have known that Mehsud would be there ahead of time," he said. "That speaks volume about information sharing."

Farahnaz Ispahani, spokeswoman for Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari, suggested that Mehsud presented the imminent threat.

"For many many years now Osama bin Laden has not in any discernable way been active, whereas Baitullah Mehsud has been very active in Pakistan, within our borders, and we have seen on a daily basis the work of his evil and that of his followers," Ispahani said.

According to Joe Elder, a professor of sociology and a specialist on Pakistan at the University of Wisconsin, Mehsud has likely been under extreme surveillance for a long time now, whereas bin Laden has remained a moving target.

"With the assistance of Pakistani intelligence it's much easier to track down and follow the head of the Pakistani Taliban. Many of them have been residing in the region for a long time," said Elder. "It's his home turf, so it's an easier target."

Is Osama Bin Laden Next on Drones' Hit List?

Elder said that while Mehsud's relatives have been known and tracked for a long time, the same has not been possible for bin laden.

"Bin Laden, by contrast, was an outsider who came to Afghanistan but moved about a great deal. He's been on the move for a long time," said Elder. "He's been much harder to follow."

Cloonan adds that the region where bin Laden is believed to be – somewhere near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border – is far more treacherous to search than where Mehsud was located.

"Finding bin Laden is a very, very difficult task in a region that is just so formidable geographically," said Cloonan. "It's a huge expanse, it's largely ungoverned, it's rugged and it's very hard for us to work effectively there."

Cloonan said that the hit on Mehsud will be noticed by bin Laden.

"Don't think for a minute that when a strike like this happens it doesn't have an impact on bin Laden," the former agent said.

Cloonan says that wherever he is, bin Laden is certainly taking extra precautions in the wake of Mehsud's death.

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