Taliban fighters fled on Thursday to the banks of the Amu River, one of the longest in Central Asia, deserting motorbikes and using fishing boats to reach the island, said Sultan Faizy, spokesman for Vice President General Abdul Rashid Dostum.
“They have no choice but to surrender or starve,” he said, adding that Afghan troops had not advanced so as not to enter Turkmenistan.
A Taliban spokesman denied its fighters were marooned, saying they were basing themselves on the Afghan side of the island to stage their fight against government forces.
Afghanistan’s vice president has been leading about 2,000 Afghan troops in the northern province of Jawzjan against the insurgents making a broad push across the north of the country.
The clashes come just weeks after the Taliban briefly took control of provincial capital of Kunduz province in the movement’s biggest victory in the 14-year war.
Afghan forces had cleared most of Khamab district on Thursday, which had fallen under Taliban control for nearly three weeks, seizing militants’ heavy arms and vehicles and forcing the fighters to retreat to the island, Faizy said.
The Jawzjan operation is part of the expanding fight by Afghan troops against the Taliban, which has launched sustained attacks on district and provincial centers since the withdrawal of most foreign troops at the end of last year.