WASHINGTON (AFP) - Disputed elections in Afghanistan have complicated the picture for the Obama administration as it reviews US war strategy, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Thursday. It remains to be seen how long it will take to see the outcome of the election, Gates told a news conference. But I would tell you that there is no question that the nature of the election in Afghanistan has complicated the picture. Gates cited the election, which has been plagued by allegations of widespread fraud, as another factor that had to be taken into account as President Barack Obama weighs whether to deploy more troops to Afghanistan. He said the president needed time to examine various assessments of US strategy and should not be rushed over such an important decision. We need to take our time and get this right, he said. Hundreds of thousands of ballots are being recounted because of suspicions of fraud. Meanwhile, setting up an interim government is the only way to lead Afghanistan out of the political quagmire created by allegations of massive fraud during key elections, a London-based think tank said Thursday. Incumbent Hamid Karzai is on track to win the August 20 presidential election with nearly 55 percent of the preliminary tally, but evidence of fraud has prompted a partial recount which could yet force a run-off. The UN-backed Electoral Complaints Commission has ordered a recount of hundreds of thousands of ballots because of clear and convincing evidence of fraud-a process that could take weeks, if not months. The International Council on Security and Development (ICOS) warned in a report that delays could create a dangerous political vacuum, coming as Taliban insurgents are extending their bloody nationwide battle. This recount could easily take President Hamid Karzai below the more than 50 percent needed to secure victory in the first round of voting, triggering a run-off, for which the country is ill-prepared, it said. The protracted electoral fraud investigation means that it will not be possible to hold a run-off before November, the report added. But by then, Afghanistans harsh winter will have set in, preventing a second round of voting between Karzai and his closest challenger Abdullah Abdullah, who is trailing with 27.8 percent of the preliminary count. A second round would be delayed until May leaving Afghanistan in a constitutional vacuum for eight months, said ICOS. Imposing a state of emergency would further inflame tensions, making the only solution an interim government-set up with the backing of both Karzai and former foreign minister Abdullah, the think tank said. An interim government is the only option left to lead Afghanistan out of the political quagmire, said ICOS policy analyst Alexander Jackson. The Independent Election Commission says that recounting is under way, but has given no timescale for the process. A spokesman said Thursday that no preparations were under way yet for a possible second round.