Canadian diplomats are back on the ground in Libya, seven months after evacuating the north African country, CBC News has learned.
And some Canadian Forces members have joined them.
Ambassador Sandra McCardell was in Tripoli, the country's capital, last week to assess the situation, and she and a team are now finishing refurbishing and securing the mission so they can resume normal diplomatic relations.
McCardell left the country along with other Canadians at the start of a bloody months-long battle to overthrow now-deposed leader Moammar Gadhafi.
In March, Canada joined a UN-sanctioned NATO air mission to protect civilians in Libya. That mission, based in Trapani, Italy, has been extended once and was due to end Sept. 27, but Prime Minister Stephen Harper says Canada will continue its commitment until "the job is finished."
The government has repeatedly said Canada wouldn't send ground troops into the country, but CBC News has learned there are members of the Canadian Forces on the ground in Libya.
The U.S. has four soldiers on the ground in Libya right now, according to American media reports, including two explosives experts there to disable any traps left at the U.S. Embassy.
Canadian team in place
Now that the Transitional National Council has taken power, McCardell and a team of staff members are in place to liaise with TNC officials. They're also preparing for more diplomats to arrive to resume commercial services.
In August, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird announced a new Libyan envoy to Canada. Abubaker Karmos, the country's chargé d'affaires, worked for a year at the embassy in Ottawa under the former regime, but quit as protests against Gadhafi raged. Canada has also recognized the TNC as the legitimate governing authority of the Libyan people.
Canadian officials are watching now to see whether the TNC follows through on its commitment to democracy, human rights and the rule of law. McCardell told the House Foreign Affairs committee last month that the TNC seemed to be committed to those values, pointing to their reaction after military chief Abdel Fatah Younis was killed.
"There have been no acts of retaliation, and there has been no retribution thus far," she said. "The outcome remains to be seen, but so far the steps taken are the correct ones."
A senior government official says Canada is in a strategic position to promote Canadian values in Libya."We now expect the new government of Libya to fulfil its commitments to freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law," the official said.