The ancient Christian communities that once thrived in Iraq "now face potential extinction," said U.S. Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, urging the United States to develop a postwar plan to help Iraq resolve the humanitarian consequences of the seven-year war. The fact that U.S. combat forces are expected to leave by Sept. 1 "is good news for our American servicemen, their families and the nation," the cardinal said. "But this departure should not be accompanied by a withdrawal of our support for the Iraqi people, particularly for the millions of displaced Iraqis." After Sept. 1, as combat forces leave, violence could increase against those who have been displaced, including Christians. Although the international community, led by the United States, has provided basic assistance and resettled a small number of Iraq's refugees, Cardinal McCarrick said in an op-ed piece at politicsdaily.com, a long-term solution to such massive displacement "has proven elusive." Cardinal McCarrick said a postwar plan, such as the Marshall Plan that restored Europe after World War II, should be developed in cooperation with the Iraqi government and the international community to find solutions for Iraqi refugees and displaced people. Of special concern are Iraqi Christians and other minorities who he said continue to be the targets of systematic violence. "Even now," Cardinal McCarrick wrote, "Christians continue to flee Iraq at levels comparable to the rate near the beginning of the war, a deeply troubling sign." He said withdrawing from Iraq without a restoration plan will not only affect Iraq but neighboring countries—Jordan, Syria and Lebanon as well, with many Iraqis fleeing to these countries and causing a strain on those populations and their resources. "Abandonment of Iraqi refugees and internally displaced cannot be an option," Cardinal McCarrick wrote. "We cannot leave behind a humanitarian crisis in the hope that it will correct itself."