MONUC's latest report to the Security Council said it would like a shorter mandate - 6 months instead of a year - and will submit a plan for draw-down by 30 June 2010, Congolese independence day. This is a reaction to Kabila's request for such a plan.
It's a bit rich, given the high levels of violence in the Kivus and the problems with the integration process. But MONUC is there upon Kabila's invitation, so at least they have to make a show of doing as he requests. In reality, what the plan will include - so UN officials say, at least - is a set of benchmarks for withdrawal. I.e. "we will remove troops for the Kivus once the former armed groups have been fully integrated into the Congolese army, their command and control broken down and the FDLR dismantled." Of course, I am dreaming, but there will be some such guidelines for withdrawal. A bit like Obama saying we will "start withdrawing from Afghanistan after 18 months." Emphasis on "start."
But UN officials do indicate that they want to withdraw a symbolic chunk of troops next year and start relying more on technical advisers who would help reinforce state capacity. I'm all for it - we could have built a decent Congolese army with the $1,4 billion we spend each year on MONUC - but building state capacity is something that the international community has proven to be very poor at in the DRC. It requires hefty financial and political engagement that just isn't present at the moment.
Also in the cards is the replacement of current MONUC chief Alan Doss; the rumor mill in New York says that he may leave as early as March 2010.